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Back to Nature: Colombian officials free nearly 2,000 rescued animals

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BOGOTA, July 26 (Reuters) - More than 1,900 turtles, reptiles and amphibians were released into lagoons and forests in Colombia's Meta province over the weekend after being seized and rehabilitated by authorities fighting wildlife trafficking, officials said.

Most of the animals - 1,917 - are matamata turtles, known for their impressive ridged shells. The turtles were seized in an April operation by Bogota's city environment office and the environmental police at the cargo terminal of El Dorado airport, the environment office said in a statement.

Also released were 27 turtles from two other species, 15 iguanas, a zopilote snake and multiple frogs and toads. All of them were also seized in anti-trafficking operations.

"We have freed 1,960 specimens of wild Colombian fauna," said Camilo Rincon, the head of environmental control at Bogota's environmental office.

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A general view of Lejanias, Meta province, Colombia, May 19, 2016. REUTERS/John Vizcaino

"With the help of our veterinarians we have rehabilitated and recovered these specimens so they can be liberated in their natural habitat, which corresponds to four civil reserves located in the province of Meta," he said.

Genetic testing showed the animals came originally from Meta, the statement said. The large province is located south of Bogota and encompasses both wide plains and jungle.

Between June 2020 and June 2021, 3,835 animals were seized by the environment office and the police. Some 3,222 of those have so far been placed back into their natural habitats.

Colombia is one of the world's most biodiverse countries by square kilometer and home to some 10% of the world's flora and fauna.

Reporting by Javier Andres Rojas and Camilo Cohecha Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio

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