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Last Updated: Monday December 19 2005 14:35 GMT

Mexico's mission to save turtles

Turtle on beach

Some of the world's oldest turtles, which lay their eggs on Mexico's beaches, are to get special protection to save them from extinction.

There is particular concern for leatherbacks whose numbers have fallen 15 per cent compared to 20 years ago.

The Mexican government is bringing in fines for turtle-egg snatchers and is even providing workshops to teach fishermen more about leatherbacks.

Anyone harming a turtle in Mexico could now receive up to nine years in prison.

There are seven different species of turtle in the world, six of which nest in Mexico.

But it is the leatherback which appears to be most at risk, although some specialists are hopeful that their numbers could start to recover between the next five to 10 years.

Plastic bags

Leatherbacks can grow up to 2.5m long and weigh almost a ton. They have a leathery shell and live on jellyfish.

There are thought to be many reasons why the turtle numbers are down. Most of these are blamed on humans including the fact that many die every year from swallowing plastic bags which float into the sea.