- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

ZURICH, Switzerland, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Some 600 rare animals, including exotic snakes, reptiles and hedgehogs, were found frozen to death after they arrived in Zurich on an Air France flight from Madagascar.

The Zurich Zoo, which had imported the animals along with the Zurich Reptile Center, asked Air France Thursday to conduct an inquiry into the incident and ensure it does not happen again. The Zurich Reptile Center is threatening to sue the airline, however.

"It is not about the money we lost in the death of these animals," Robert Zengg, curator of Zurich Zoo told United Press International. "We are concerned about what happened to these animals during the flight. What really went wrong?"

The dead animals included exotic chameleons, frogs, snakes and hedgehogs, all found only on Madagascar. They were to be housed in the Zoo and the Reptile Center. Air France said an inquiry had been ordered into the incident.

Reptile Center Director Martin Schreiber had traveled to Madagascar to arrange for the packing of the animals. He said the airline failed to follow his instructions.

"I told Air France that the animals had to be kept in temperatures above 20 degrees centigrade and that they should not be left in the cold for more than 3 minutes," Schreiber told Swiss Radio.

The animals were flown out of Madagascar Feb. 7. Schreiber said when he went to collect the animals in Zurich, he found they were freezing. For a few hours, the containers were stored in an animal room and the temperature was raised to 20 degrees Celsius, but it failed to revive some one-third of the animals.

Schreiber said he had not received any apology from Air France, but received an e-mail suggesting the damage to the animals occurred during the 3-1/2 hour stopover in Paris.

Air France said that as a routine it would have sent animals for a veterinary check, but in this case it was not done as the "customer specifically asked us to speed up the transportation and put animals on the earliest flight."

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