JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South African animal inspectors say they have intercepted a large consignment of reptiles smuggled from Madagascar and destined for the exotic pet trade in the United States.

South Africa's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said in a statement Friday that an estimated 1,600 reptiles and amphibians were discovered during a routine inspection at Johannesburg's international airport.

Geckos, frogs, chameleons, skinks, lizards and toads, many of which are endangered species, were tied up in small muslin bags, or crammed into overcrowded plastic tubs for approximately 5 days before they were discovered. Many of the animals had already died.

The animals, bound for the U.S. from Madagascar, were left unattended in the cargo area when flights to the U.S. were cancelled.