WATCH: Shark returns to wild after illegal capture, rescue

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(WFLA) – The Indonesian government and Wildlife Conservation Society recently rescued two wild sharks. The whale sharks had been illegally caught by “a major supplier of large marine megafauna to the international wildlife trade,” Wildlife Conservation Society officials said.

The rescue comes after an 18-month investigation into an illegal catching operation, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The illegally captured animals include whale sharks, manta rays and cetaceans.

The suspects often plan to sell the animals to ocean theme parks, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Rescue crews found the sharks in pens, each only about 13 feet in length. Both sharks were released into the wild.

“The suspects had recommendation letters from government authorities that allowed them to collect and breed ornamental fish. They were applying for permits to be a conservation institution that will allow them to capture, breed and export the whale sharks, dolphin and manta but this had not yet been granted,” Wildlife Conservation Society officials said. “Under Indonesian law and regulations, whale sharks are a protected species and are not classified as ornamental fish.”

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