By Jim Algar
Conservationists in Colombia say almost 150 animals, seized from illegal traffickers, will be released back into their Amazon habitats after being rehabilitated.
The animals, including 13 mammals such as wild cats and Capuchin monkeys, 53 birds and 83 reptiles, experienced 10 months of rehabilitation including surgery when necessary to heal skin and recover plumage, the environmental authority of the country's Valle del Cauca department announced.
"We selected individual animals that could defend themselves in their environment, who weren't too far along in adulthood so they wouldn't fall easy prey," says authority biologist Lorena Gomez.
While being kept in conditions similar to their jungle habitats, the animals underwent thorough medical exams to ensure they would not carry diseases when released back into the native habitats to join natural populations in the wild, authorities said.
The animals were placed in crates and loaded into a Colombian Air Force plane for 2-hour flight departing the city of Palmira for the town of Solano.
From there they will be put on by boat for a 5-hour trip deep into the Amazonian jungle to be released, officials said.
In the past 2 years, Colombia has seized about 55,000 wild animals and plants in operations against illegal traffickers, who often operate to finance criminal gangs, says the country's Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.
Wildlife trafficking is seen as a worldwide concern; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made that point last year in China at an international conference on trafficking.
"Wildlife trafficking does not exist in a vacuum," he said at the event held in Beijing. "It is connected with many of the other 21st century challenges that we face, including terrorism. And it demands a common response.
"So, wildlife trafficking, yes, it's a conservation problem. But it's also an economic problem, it's a health problem, it's a security problem," he said.