DAR ES SALAAM, 27 January 2021 – Wildlife authorities in Tanzania have said chameleons smuggled from the east African country to Austria must be returned.
The call comes after officials in Austria stopped and arrested a 54-year-old man at Vienna airport as he tried to smuggle 74 protected chameleons into the country.
Police in Austria say the man was illegally moving the animals from the Usambara Mountain in Tanzania to Austria.
The animals were reportedly found by Customs Control in Vienna.
If the suspect counted on the chameleons blending into their environment, the animals failed to hide from airport scanners.
The man had hidden them in socks and empty ice-cream boxes but the chameleons were found after the man arrived Vienna on a flight from Tanzania which had transited Ethiopia.
“We want all those involved in the smuggling of animals to be extradited to Tanzania and face legal action and the chameleons brought back as well,” said the deputy permanent secretary at Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Allan Kijazi.
Three of the animals were dead at the time the suspected smuggler was busted.
A probe has been opened in Austria where officials say the chameleons were to be delivered to Schoenbrunn animal zoo.
Officials in Tanzania are also investigating the matter to establish how the chameleons left the country, according to Maurus Musha, director of wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Police at the “Interpol are working on the matter,” Kijazi added.