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Tanzania tries to bring back contraband chameleons seized in Austria

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Tanzanian authorities said on Saturday they had initiated a process to return contraband chameleons seized in Austria in January.

Allan Kijazi, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said the government has started enforcing permits from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to bring back chameleons.

“CITES has a mandate to allow us to bring back the chameleons.

“I hope the permits will be issued soon,” Kijazi told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

The official added that two Tanzanians were arrested by police for trafficking chameleons in Austria as investigations continued.

“The local police, in collaboration with the International Criminal Police Organization, are still pursuing a syndicate of criminals involved in the smuggling of chameleons,” Kizaji said.

On January 26, the director of wildlife at the Department of Natural Resources and Tourism, Maurus Msuha, said the government had launched investigations to establish how 74 protected chameleons from the East African nation were introduced into smuggling into Austria.

The investigations follow reports that the protected chameleons, native to the Usambara mountains in Tanzania, have been seized in Austria.

According to local media reports, Austrian authorities arrested a man at Vienna airport as he attempted to smuggle protected chameleons from Tanzania into the country.

Reports say the 56-year-old man, who has not been further identified, hid the animals in socks and boxes when he was arrested at the customs checkpoint in Vienna.

He had traveled to Austria from Tanzania via Ethiopia. (Xinhua / NAN)

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