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400 endangered amphibians and reptiles found dead in crates bound for US

Dead chameleon.
Dead chameleon.

More than 1,600 endangered frogs, toads, geckos and chameleons encompassing 30 different from Madagascar were discovered densely jammed in two crates at Tambo International Airport in South Africa, after an inspector from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals noticed "a bad smell" during a routine cargo inspection. It is believed they were in transit to the US for sale as exotic pets.

Officials stated that as many as 400 were dead and already decomposing after suffering from dehydration due to lack of food and water for at least 5 days. The survivors are now being cared for at the Johannesburg Zoo.

"A substantial number have stabilized, eating and drinking, although some have been so badly damaged that they are beyond hope," veterinarian Brett Gardener told the BBC.

He also stated "The boxes containing the animals had arrived at the airport Tuesday morning and were scheduled to connect on a flight that evening. However, the flight was delayed indefinitely due to bad weather and attempts to put them in another flight failed.

The case is now under investigation by the South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and NSPCA.