Colombian police on Monday seized 1,004 animals that were to be sold on the black market. A total of 21 people were arrested. Operation Leopard was supported by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior. According to the authorities, the value of the animals was estimated at around one million dollars.
Lizards, snakes, starfish, chameleons, turtles and fish are among the rescued animals.
“The National Police, in coordination with US wildlife authorities, has carried out the most important operation to protect protected species in Colombia,” said General Jorge Luis Vargas, Chief of the National Police.
Among the more than 1,000 specimens found by authorities were Colombian wildlife and exotic species.
The investigations lasted nearly a year and targeted groups that were using social media to illegally buy and sell these animals. The criminals have relied on the complicity of local transporters who conceal animals in their cargo, whether by air, land or sea.
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. According to the country’s police, 5,994 animals that were in the hands of smugglers have been rescued this year alone.