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Snakes on plane just 'legless lizards'

AAP logoAAP 21/10/2016 Caroline Berdon

Air passengers were shocked to see what they thought were snakes on a plane flying from Merauke, Papua to Jakarta, but Indonesian carrier Garuda insists they were legless lizards.

The three reptiles, who broke free from the cargo hold, were actually Lialis Burtonis lizards, commonly known as legless lizards, said an airline official.

The species, also known as the "snake lizard", differs from snakes due to its lack of venom glands, inability to constrict prey, fleshy rather than forked tongue, visible ear holes and remnant hind limbs.

Lialis Burtonis lizards are only found in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

"The animal physically looks like a snake, but after an examination and checking of the documents, they are lizards and not snakes," Garuda's vice president of corporate communications, Benny S Butarbutar told the Jakarta Post.

After being spotted in the cabin, the reptiles were quickly rounded up by flight crew and secured, with no disruption caused to the flight, Butarbutar said.

He said the incident would be investigated.

"Whoever is proven to be negligent over the standard operating procedures in the packaging will face firm sanctions," Butarbutar said.

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