Spanish airline Iberia to be fined after 12 Capybaras die inside plane to London

Spanish airline Iberia admits causing unnecessary suffering to 20 capybaras after 12 died in cramped cages with no water for 56 hours on a plane from Lima to London

  • 20 South American rodents were flown from Lima to Madrid and then to London
  • Staff at Heathrow were alarmed by lack of ventilation and found 12 dead 
  • Iberia bosses admitted charge against them and will be sentenced on Friday  

By Lara Keay For Mailonline

Published: 08:32 EDT, 17 June 2019 | Updated: 10:06 EDT, 17 June 2019

Spanish airline Iberia is facing a hefty fine after 12 capybaras died inside one of their planes after being locked up without water for 56 hours. 

The South American rodents were among 20 who were flown from the Peruvian capital of Lima to London, via Madrid.

Staff at Heathrow Airport were immediately concerned when the Iberia plane landed on October 28 last year.

The capybaras were found in cramped cages without any water or sufficient ventilation.

Two of them were found dead and a further 10 died in the reception area of the London airport, Uxbridge Magistrates Court heard today. 

Spanish airline Iberia is facing a hefty fine after 12 capybaras (stock photo of animal) died inside one of their planes after being locked up without water for 56 hours

The court was told the creatures started their journey in Lima, with Iberia’s Chilean partner Latam Airlines, before being flown by Iberia from Madrid to Beijing via London Heathrow. 

Staff at Heathrow Animal Reception Centre immediately became concerned when the Iberia plane landed on 28 October last year, Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court heard.

Prosecutor Jaysen Sharp said: ‘The crates did not have dispenser bars and insufficient ventilation.

‘The animals were inspected and two were found to be deceased on arrival. The remaining 18 animals appeared to be in bad shape.’

He said one of the rodents died before it could be taken out of its crate.

‘Another one collapsed, appeared to be drooling and showing cerebral dysfunction.’

A vet examined the suffering Capybara and it had to be put down.

Another 10 animals died in the reception centre and the surviving eight were eventually put on a flight to Beijing.

A post-mortem examination was performed to determine the cause of their deaths.

‘The cause of death was due to the lack of water provided in the transport boxes, and the very young age of some of the animals which caused unnecessary suffering,’ added the prosecutor.

‘Based on the shipment times the animals were in transit for 48 hours and 26 minutes.

‘Taking into account the boxed time that would have run to 56 hours without water and cages which in some cases were smaller than the animal was long,’ he added.

Capybaras are a large South American rodent whose friendly and gentle nature make them very popular with exotic animal collectors. 

Edward Smith, defending the airline, said: ‘It is absolutely mortified by this incident.

‘It has no previous convictions of anything like this. It is incredibly sorry and takes this matter most seriously.

‘As you can appreciate Iberia is the national carrier for Spain and takes this matter incredibly seriously,’ he added.

‘Transport of live animals in this manner will not take place without the prior advance warning.’

Staff at Heathrow Airport were immediately concerned when the Iberia plane (stock photo of plane) landed on October 28 last year. The airline now faces a hefty fine 

Following the incident, the airline sent a bulletin to staff members in order to avoid a possible repetition of the tragic events.

‘The sales and operation team in Lima shall be informed of the correct way of transporting live animals,’ said Mr Smith.

Mr Smith said the first part of the journey between Lima and Madrid was taken on by Iberia’s partner Chilean Latam Airlines.

‘There is an ongoing investigation with our client and Latam.

‘It appears Latam operated the initial leg of the journey from Lima to Madrid,’ he added.

‘It is very likely the majority of the symptoms were more likely to have taken place in the 13 hours from Lima.’

Mr Smith said the airline did not wish to absolve themselves of responsibility for the deaths.

‘Our client is willing to accept whatever fine the court deems acceptable and extends our apologies to you and the prosecution,’ he said.

Iberia admitted causing unnecessary suffering to 20 capybaras by failing to supply enough water during transportation.

The Spanish airline now faces sentence at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on Friday. 


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