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  Rare animals at the airport
Updated 15 July 2004, 16.38

Heathrow near London is one of the world's busiest airports.

But along with the human traffic it also has hundreds of animal passengers flying into the country everyday.

Newsround's Ellie went along to the airport to find out how they are trying to stop the illegal trade in rare and endangered animals.

Animals are shipped around the world to sell in pet shops.

Most of the trade is legal - although animal experts are worried that even legitimately traded animals like tortoises are sometimes captured from the wild.

This can be bad for populations of wild animals and upsets the captured creatures.

Unpacking and checking the tortoises
Unpacking and checking the tortoises

Every crate that comes in to Heathrow has to be checked.

The security men have to make sure all the shipments contain the animals that the paperwork says are there.

Smugglers often illegally slip rare animals in amongst lots of others that are legally allowed to be traded.

Any rare animal found is then seized. They are sent to special centres like Living Rainforest where they can be cared for.

Mike Bungard looks after the rescued critters.

He says it's a squeeze to find places in quarantine for all the animals that are coming in - but there's no other choice.

A scorpion being carefully checked out

He explains: "If you introduce these guys back into the wild they've got to go through exactly the same trip they've just been through to get into this country and the amount of stress they go through is a lot."

Centres like the Living Rainforest try and raise awareness that some animals shouldn't be kept as pets.

Mike Bungard hopes to help stop the trade in rare reptiles and insects.

He explains: "If we educate people about why you don't want to keep them as pets then hopefully we'll stop people wanting to keep them then the illegal trade in them will slow down."

But for now it's business as usual for the men at Heathrow - and back to the crates.

More InfoBORDER=0
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