Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 13:28 UK

Three endangered tortoises seized

One of the Testudo Kleinmanni tortoises (Pic: HM Revenue & Customs)
The tortoises, native to Libya and Egypt, are rare in the wild

Three endangered tortoises were seized at Manchester Airport after being imported illegally.

The rare Testudo Kleinmanni tortoises were found in cargo containers unloaded off a flight from Libya on 25 June.

They were discovered by UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers and have been temporarily re-homed until a decision is made on their future.

Importation documentation concerning the endangered animals is being checked.

UKBA assistant director Colin Brown said: "These are some of the most endangered tortoises in the wild and are 'red listed' under current legislation.

Albino pythons

"At Manchester Airport, as with other British ports, we do come across deliberate smuggling and concealment of endangered or banned animals and plants.

"Anyone tempted to trade in them should think again."

The colourful tortoises are native to Libya and Egypt and the loss of their habitat has made them extremely rare in the natural environment.

Live animal imports, whether by private individuals or the commercial pet trade, are tightly regulated.

Smugglers who attempt to import protected species can be jailed for up to seven years and face an unlimited fine.

In 2007, the largest-ever consignment of live coral was seized at Manchester Airport. The creatures were re-homed at London Zoo.

Since then, various mammals and reptiles have been seized, including albino pythons, turtles, terrapins, seahorses and bullfrog tadpoles.

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