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Last Updated: Saturday August 08 2009 13:15 GMT

More tortoises smuggled into UK

Smuggle tortoise after rescue

Police say there's been an increase in the number of tortoises being illegally smuggled into the UK.

Smuggling rare animals is worth billions of pounds to criminals who sell the creatures on, often as pets.

But because the animals are moved around secretly, they're often not looked after properly and many get sick or die during their journey.

The illegal trade in creatures like tortoises and snakes is taking some species close to extinction.

Animal smuggling is said to be worth £12bn a year around the world.

For example, a single Ploughshare tortoise, a species which is almost extinct, can be illegally sold for around £25,000.

Smugglers could face jail

People caught smuggling a wild animal, or selling it without a licence, could be sent to prison for up to five years. They could also be banned from keeping animals.

Police say they are cracking down on smugglers and hope new laws will help stamp out the crime.