Colombian police rescue 1,000 animals in anti-smuggling operation

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BOGOTA, April 11 (Reuters) - Colombia's national police rescued over 1,000 ocelots, snakes, birds and other animals valued at more than $1 million on the black market, authorities said on Monday.

The nationwide operation, supported by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and local environmental authorities, led to 21 arrests, the police said in a statement.

"The national police in coordination with wildlife authorities from the United States have achieved the most important operation to safeguard protected species in Colombia," General Jorge Luis Vargas, the head of the national police, said.

The 1,004 animals - including turtles, starfish and tarantulas - are now in the care of environmental authorities.

Colombia is one of the world's most bio-diverse countries and police there have rescued 5,994 animals from potential trafficking so far this year.

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

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