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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Zoo shells out to save tortoises
Egyptian Tortoise
One of the saved Egyptian Tortoises
Two smuggled rare Egyptian Tortoises facing destruction in Australia have been saved by Chester Zoo.

They were seized by Customs Officers at Sydney Airport as it is illegal to bring reptiles into Australia.

If no home outside Australia had been found within 48 hours the pair would have been destroyed. But officials at Chester Zoo came to the rescue.

The zoo is already home to seven Egyptian Tortoises which are on the brink of extinction in the wild.

The tortoises had been found in an Egyptian woman's suitcase at the airport.

Zoo appeal

Kevin Buley, Chester Zoo's curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates received an appeal from the Curator of Reptiles at Melbourne Zoo and conservation groups to see if he could help.

"The pressure was really on to sort out clearance our end in record time to save these animals," said Penny Rudd, registrar at Chester zoo.

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs speeded up its paperwork while airlines and cargo handlers waived their fees to get the tortoises to Manchester Airport from Sydney.

The pair are now in quarantine at the zoo.

Shellshock campaign

Mr Buley said: "They are active and eating well and once they have recovered from their ordeal and finished their quarantine they will be introduced to our existing group.

"The population at Chester Zoo forms part of a European conservation breeding programme and is a safety net in the event of their extinction in the wild."

Mr Buley is also heading the Shellshock campaign to fight the threat to turtles and tortoises posed by illegal trafficking of the reptiles.

The Egyptian Tortoise is on the brink of extinction due to agricultural and industrial development.

In July Chester Zoo re-housed six Indian Star Tortoises confiscated in Hong Kong after a Malaysian courier tried to smuggle them in a suitcase.




SEE ALSO:
Zoo denies keeper death charges
29 Mar 04  |  Merseyside
Strike forces Galapagos boss out
28 Sep 04  |  Americas
Bumper year for baby tortoises
20 Sep 04  |  South East Wales
Tortoise takes three-month trip
01 Sep 04  |  Tyne/Wear


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