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Use of wild animal species slammed after ‘MasterChef’ episode

QUITO (AFP) – Ecuador on Tuesday warned would-be wild animal eaters of possible prison time and Colombia launched an investigation after a competitive cooking TV show featured shark, alligator and capybara as ingredients.

In the offending episode, contestants of MasterChef Ecuador cooked up tollo, a small shark, as well as a type of wild deer and a capybara, a large rodent that can weigh up to 80 kilogrammes.

The National Animal Movement of Ecuador warned that the use of such ingredients on TV would “normalise the consumption of protected animals, whose ownership contributes to the trafficking of wild animals and the destruction of ecosystems.”

Neither the channel nor the producers of the programme responded to the charges levelled against them, though the show’s chef and judge, Carolina Sanchez, claimed the meat was “from a farm”.

In response to the programme, which was filmed in Colombia, Ecuador’s Environment Ministry said it “rejects the promotion and dissemination of graphic or audiovisual content that encourages the purchase and consumption of wild species or their constituent elements”.

It also warned that crimes against wild flora and fauna can be punished with prison sentences of up to three years.

In Colombia, Environment Minister Carlos Eduardo Correa announced an investigation.

He said authorities “are verifying information circulating on social networks about the use of wildlife by-products in television programmes”.

“Trafficking and marketing of wildlife is a crime in Colombia,” he wrote on Twitter.

MasterChef Ecuador, which is in its third season, is recorded in Colombia and broadcast on the privately owned national channel Teleamazonas.