Officials at an airport in South Africa discovered over 1,600 animals crammed into crates, having been shipped from Madagascar and had gone at least five days without food or water. Officials say that they were bound for the exotic pet market in the U.S. Some of the animals, including 400 endangered amphibians and reptiles, died in transit from dehydration and improper shipping, while others are receiving medical attention at the Johannesburg Zoo.
"A substantial number have stabilized, eating and drinking, there are over 1,200 that have survived -- others with irreparable damage," the zoo's veterinarian Brett Gardener told the BBC.
Gardener also said that the connecting flight to the U.S. was the biggest problem for the animals. "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 on another flight failed," he said.
The conditions, discovered by an inspector who noticed a "bad smell" coming from the cargo boxes, amounted to animal cruelty, says the BBC.
The animals, which included at least 30 different species of frogs, chameleons, lizards and toads and geckos, had been placed in two crates about half a metre in size - one on top of the other. The chameleons were tied in small muslin bags, while the other reptiles and amphibians were crammed into small plastic tubs.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are investigating the incident -- and some suspect that there are South African agents working as middle men who could be charged with animal cruelty.