Hundreds of amphibians and reptiles have been found dead, crammed in crates at South Africa’s International Airport, officials said on Friday.
Authorities are investigating whether any laws were broken in South Africa after approximately 400 amphibians and reptiles have died of dehydration and improper shipping, according to animal inspectors.
The animals were found in crates and are believed to have died after being without water or food for several days.
South Africa’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) was called to O.R. Tambo International Airport, after an inspector noticed a “bad smell” while conducting a routine cargo search on January 29 at Johannesburg’s main airport.
When the inspectors opened the crates at the South Africa airport they found 1,600 reptiles and amphibians — including many endangered species of chameleons, lizards, geckos, toads and frogs, however, some were dead.
Hundreds of endangered animals dead at South African airport, en route from Madagascar to the US exotic pet market.
About one-fourth of the animals had died from lack of food and water at the time of the disturbing discovering.
“Many animals could not move or turn around in their containers. None had been provided with water which caused extreme dehydration in the surviving animals,” the NSPCA said in a statement.
Some reports suggest that the animals, which hail from Madagascar, had been without food or water for five days, according to the BBC.
It is also believed the endangered animals were destined for the exotic pet market in the US.
Those animals that were not killed by the fail shipping attempt were taken to the Johannesburg zoo for treatment.
— MSN (@MSN) February 1, 2014
“A substantial number have stabilized, eating, and drinking, there are about over 1,200 that have survived – others had irreparable damage,” the zoo’s veterinarian Brett Gardener said.
Gardner said that there is always some deaths that can occur in any kind of animal shipping, but in this case the large amount of casualties of the endangered species was likely a result in a lengthy delay of a connecting flight to the US.
“The boxes arrived on Tuesday morning and were scheduled to connect on a flight that evening. The flight was delayed indefinitely due to bad weather and attempts to put them in another flight failed,” he said.
The local media report that some of the animals were so tightly packed together that they had no room to move.
News outlets say the animals were approved for trade, but activists are demanding an investigation into whether this is a case of animal cruelty that resulted in many of the endangered animals left unattended for so many days at the airport in South Africa.