Austrian customs officers reportedly prevented a 56-year-old man from smuggling dozens of protected Tanzanian chameleons last Wednesday, after X-raying his suitcase.
The airport security spotted the suspicious suitcase on the X-ray machine and found 74 chameleons hidden in boxes and socks, according to BBC.
“Investigations revealed that the animals had been intended for the Czech market and were to be sold on there. Their black-market value would have been around EUR 37,000 (USD 44,990),” Austrian authorities said in a statement.
“The perpetrator now faces administrative penalty proceedings with an anticipated fine of EUR 6,000 (USD 7300),” they added, while stating that the trafficker forfeited his claim on the animals and that his illegal activities are “likely to cost him dear.”
Two animals died during the transportation from Tanzania to Vienna via the Ethiopian city Addis Ababa, authorities added. (RELATED: Woman Charged For Plans To Smuggle Chinese Nationals Into US For Financial Gain)
The chameleons reportedly originated from the Usambara Mountains, a region of Tanzania with abundant rainfall and cool temperatures. They consisted of both young chameleons, only a week old, and adult ones, according to the authorities.
After being examined by the experts at Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo, according to the statement, the surviving chameleons are now housed in terraria which fulfill all their specific needs.