DARES SALAAM: Tanzanian wildlife authorities said on Wednesday they have launched investigations to establish how 74 highly endangered chameleons from the East African nation were smuggled to Austria.

The investigations followed reports that the protected chameleons, which are from the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, were seized in Austria.

“The government is aware of the seizure of the chameleons in Austria, and it has already launched investigations,” Maurus Msuha, the director of wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

“Our experts are probing the issue. I cannot give you details of the investigations,” said Msuha.

According to local media reports, Austrian authorities stopped a man at Vienna airport as he tried to smuggle 74 protected chameleons from Tanzania into the country.

The reports said a 56-year-old man, who was not further identified, had hidden the animals in socks and empty ice-cream boxes when he was caught at customs control in Vienna.

He had traveled to Austria from Tanzania via Ethiopia.