Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 18:35 UK

Cardboard turtles invade Dorset

Sea turtle on Bournemouth Beach
About 200 cardboard Hawksbill turtles were scattered on Bournemouth Beach

Bournemouth Beach has been invaded by cardboard sea turtles to mark the start of a campaign against illegal souvenir trading.

About 200 life-size cardboard hawksbill turtles were placed on the shore by animal welfare activists on Monday.

Campaigners aimed to raise awareness of the impact wildlife souvenir trading has on endangered species.

Each year UK customs seize thousands of wildlife souvenirs, including turtle trinkets, brought home by tourists.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was behind the idea to scatter the cardboard reptiles, as if they had just crawled from the sea to lay their eggs.

'Deadly business'

According to experts this is when the creatures are at their most vulnerable as they can be targeted by hunters, before being transformed into holiday mementos for sale to tourists.

IFAW's UK Director Robbie Marsland said: "This turtle invasion may look out of place on an English beach but unfortunately many endangered species have their final resting place in this country - as tokens of exotic holidays abroad.

"We hope this spectacle will highlight the truth behind this deadly business.

"Many people are unaware about the origins of wildlife souvenirs or that it can be illegal to bring them into the UK."

The trading of wild marine turtles and their parts is banned under international law.

Seven species of sea turtles remain in the wild and all are threatened with extinction.

"We urge tourists to remember if they don't buy, turtles won't die," added Mr Marsland.

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