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Six ocelots rescued from illegal wildlife traffickers have been returned to the wild in northern Ecuador, the environment ministry said on Saturday.
“They released six female ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in the Cotacachi Cayapas Reserve,” near the border with Colombia, it said in a statement.
“All the specimens returned to their natural habitat after a rehabilitation period of approximately one year.”
Rescuers said the ocelots were dewormed and blood samples were taken to assess their health. They were also marked with microchips to identify them in the future.
The nocturnal wildcats were released “in an area where humans have no contact with them and where they can live in their habitat and develop freely,” according to Placido Palacios, director of the private James Brown Rescue Center, where the animals underwent rehabilitation.
Illegal wildlife trafficking is punishable with up to three years in prison in Ecuador.
Over the past seven years more than 6,000 wild animals have been rescued from the trade, according to figures from the country’s environment ministry.