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Wildlife trafficking is considered illegal and punishable by the law. Recently, six female ocelots were rescued from wildlife traffickers and returned to the wild in northern Ecuador.

Wild animals, such as ocelots, were often illegally taken and sold to the black market for various purposes. Although there are enough laws to protect them, lack of resources often hinders efforts to make the conservation of wild animals a priority.

 6 Female Ocelots Returned to the Wild After Being Rescued From Wildlife Traffickers
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
An ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) in Itatiba Zoo, Brazil.

Ocelots Rescued From Wild Trafficking

Phys.org reported that the environment ministry of Ecuador announced on Saturday, September 11, those six female ocelots are illegally taken by wildlife traffickers have been rescued and returned to the wild in the northern part of the country in the Cotacachi Cayapas Reserve near the border with Colombia.

The ministry added that all specimens were returned to their natural habitat after one year of rehabilitation in the private James Brown Center. All ocelots have been dewormed, and rescuers have taken blood samples to assess their health. Also, the wildcats were marked with microchips to monitor and identify them in the future.

Phys.org quoted Placido Palacios, the center's director, saying that 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."

Hunters Target Ocelots for Their Fine Fur

According to National Geographic, ocelots are wildcats that are twice the size of domesticated cats. They are largely nocturnal and hunt rabbits, rodents, iguanas, fish, and frogs using their keen sense of sight and hearing. But unlike most cats, they do not avoid water and even swim well.

Ocelots live under leafy canopies in the forests of South America, but they can also be found in some brushlands like in Texas. Sometimes, they can also be found in the vicinity of villages or settlements as they can adapt to human habitats.

But what attracts hunters is their gorgeous dappled fine fur that is quite rare because they are also considered an endangered species. In the US and most countries where they are found, they are protected animals under wildlife protection laws.

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Wildlife Trafficking: The Third Most Valuable Illicit Commerce in the World

A reporter who sought the lucrative and illicit wildlife trading in Ecuador's rain forest, Charles Bergman, wrote in the Smithsonian Magazine that wildlife trafficking is the world's third most valuable illicit commerce next to drugs and weapons. This illegal industry is worth over $10 billion per year.

The most commonly trafficked animals are birds, that range from hummingbirds to parrots to eagles. But other contraband animals also include turtles, crocodiles, and snakes.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been regulating the buying and selling of wildlife across borders since 1973, but some countries have also enforced their own regulations on wildlife trade, like the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 in the US.

María Fernanda Espinosa, director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in South America, said that laws against illegal wildlife trafficking are not lacking, but rather the resources that are lacking, which makes conservation less of a priority. For instance, as few as nine police officers are assigned to protecting wildlife in Ecuador.

RELATED ARTICLE: 14 Tons of Pangolin Scales in Single Illegal Shipment Confiscated by Singaporean Officials

Check out more news and information on Wildlife Trafficking in Science Times.