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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Baby tortoise species' 'saviour'
Egyptian tortoise
The EgyptianTortoise is an endangered species
Two baby Egyptian tortoises which have hatched at Chester Zoo may be crucial in saving the species from extinction.

Curators at the zoo say the creatures are smaller than a 50 pence piece and weigh less than a strawberry.

Kevin Buley, organiser of international tortoise and turtle conservation campaign Shellshock, said the species is critically endangered in the wild.

The babies hatched within days of each other and are being kept in a private conservation and research unit.

Successful breeding

"The importance of these baby tortoises cannot be underestimated," Mr Buley said.

"With the species threatened with imminent extinction in the wild, the only Egyptian tortoises left on our planet will soon only be those that are kept and bred in zoos and other captive populations.

"It is only through the continued successful captive-breeding of this species in the coming years, that we will be able to retain any hope of one day seeing these animals returned to the wild.

"Due to their fragility and size, two baby tortoises are being reared off-show in one of our conservation and research units where our dedicated staff can give them the specialist care they require."

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