Photos from the scene show mountains of discarded boxes and dozens of small cages on the ground with some live animals still inside.
The cause of the tragedy was attributed to a miscommunication along the supply chain of China’s burgeoning pet-breeding industry.
“The station was cluttered with express boxes with thousands of animals that had already died, and the entire place reeks of rotting bodies,” said the founder of animal rescue group Utopia who calls herself Sister Hua, according to CBS. “It was like a living hell,” she told the network. “It was obvious they died of suffocation, dehydration and starvation.”
Shipping live animals is severely restricted in China, CBS reports.
Hua told CBS that she suspected the animals were purchased online as pets and could have become stranded at the depot due to concerns over the strict transport laws.
“Miscommunication inside the shipping company and the inconsistency of the implementation of shipping regulations directly led to the tragedy,” Hua said. “Of course, both buyers and sellers bear the responsibility, too.”