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Last Updated: Thursday June 18 2009 19:10 GMT

Baby tortoises stolen from animal sanctuary

One of the baby tortoises that's been stolen from the sanctuary

Seven baby tortoises, including an endangered leopard tortoise that's worth up to £1,000, have been stolen from a sanctuary in Cornwall.

A visitor is thought to have snatched the youngsters from their pen at the Tortoise Garden sanctuary, which looks after more than 400 of the creatures.

The baby tortoises, some of which are as small as a 50p piece, will die if kept in the wrong conditions.

Owners Joy and Geoff Bloor described the theft as "heartless".

The missing leopard tortoise, Banjo, was the first of his kind to be born at the sanctuary.

The other missing babies are Hermann tortoises, which are worth around £100 each.

Joy Bloor and her husband, who have been caring for tortoises in their garden for 11 years, said it was one of the saddest days of their lives.

In a message on their website, Joy said: "My faith in humanity has been completely destroyed and this episode will now lead in all probability to the closure of the garden.

"I have put my heart and soul into looking after tortoises in my tortoise garden for the past 11 years and to be repaid in this heartless manner has taken my heart out of here."

Police are investigating and want to speak to a man in his mid-20s, with short dark brown hair, who was seen nearby at the time of the theft.