Reptile consignment intercepted in South Africa

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Photo - This photo released by National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (NSPCA), shows lizards in a plastic container filled with water at the Johannesburg Zoo, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. South African animal inspectors say they have intercepted a large consignment of reptiles smuggled from Madagascar and destined for the exotic pet trade in the United States. Estimated 1,600 reptiles and amphibians were discovered during a routine inspection at Johannesburg's international airport. (AP Photo/Este Kotze, HO, NSPCA)
This photo released by National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (NSPCA), shows lizards in a plastic container filled with water at the Johannesburg Zoo, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. South African animal inspectors say they have intercepted a large consignment of reptiles smuggled from Madagascar and destined for the exotic pet trade in the United States. Estimated 1,600 reptiles and amphibians were discovered during a routine inspection at Johannesburg's international airport. (AP Photo/Este Kotze, HO, NSPCA)
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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A large shipment of reptiles smuggled from Madagascar and destined for the exotic pet trade in the United States were confiscated in South Africa, said animal protection activists.

An estimated 1,600 reptiles and amphibians were discovered during a routine inspection at Johannesburg's international airport, said South Africa's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said in a statement Friday.

Geckos, frogs, chameleons, skinks, lizards and toads, many of which are endangered species, were tied up in small muslin bags, or crammed into overcrowded plastic tubs for approximately 5 days before they were discovered. Many of the animals had already died.

The animals, bound for the U.S. from Madagascar, were left unattended in the cargo area when flights to the U.S. were cancelled.  The surviving reptiles were taken to the Johannesburg Zoo for treatment, according to local news reports.

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