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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Zoo celebrates tortoise arrivals
The baby Egyptian tortoise is no bigger than a raspberry

Staff at Chester Zoo are celebrating the arrival of three tiny additions which are set to continue their work to save a species from extinction.

Three Egyptian tortoises, each smaller than a raspberry, were hatched at the zoo in the last few days.

Kevin Buley, head of lower vertebrates and invertebrates, said the survival of the species depended on breeding programmes at zoos across the world.

The Egyptian Tortoise is critically endangered in the wild.

Habitat destruction

"Our tortoises might well be tiny at the moment but what they currently lack in size, they make up for in importance," said Mr Buley.

"It is only through the continued successful breeding of this species in zoos in the coming years, that there can be any hope of one day seeing these animals returned to the wild."

The Egyptian Tortoise is found in the wild in Mediterranean coastal deserts of Egypt, Eastern Libya and western Negev in Israel.

Its numbers have rapidly declined since the 1960s because of the exotic pet trade and destruction of its habitat through development.

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