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Rare tortoises unveiled at Chester Zoo

Ploughshare tortoises are amongst the most endangered species in the world Credit: Chester Zoo

Four extremely rare tortoises have gone on display at Chester Zoo.

The ploughshare tortoises, regarded by many conservationists as the world’s most threatened species of tortoise, were handed to the zoo in 2012 after being confiscated by customs officials in Hong Kong in 2009.

They were part of a shipment of 13 being smuggled from their native Madagascar. They will now form part of the European Breeding Programme for the species, which is being run with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Ploughshare tortoises as critically endangered by having been poached to the point of extinction. They are highly prized for their distinctive gold and black shells and fetch exceptionally high prices on the international black market.

The ploughshare tortoise is iconic because of its beautiful shell but the species is under huge pressure for its survival. There’s a very real possibility the species could be lost forever due to illegal trafficking for the exotic pet trade. Most of these illegally exported tortoises are sold in markets in South East Asia.

The United Nations estimates the illegal trade is worth billions of pounds each year and, despite efforts to crack down on it, it continues to grow. These tortoises are seen as the jewel in the crown of the reptile world. It’s very possible that, within the next two years, there will be none left in the wild because of this trade.

Conservation has never been more critical. We can’t sit back and watch this important species simply disappear and our long-term ambition is to maintain a safety net population at the zoo.

– Dr Gerardo Garcia, Chester Zoo
The four tortoises were rescued from smugglers Credit: Chester Zoo

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Council Tax relief for 'pooper snoopers'

Credit: PA

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has suggested that people should shop others who let their dogs poo and don't pick it up in exchange for a whole year's free council tax.

He insisted that if someone films or photographs fly-tippers and irresponsible dog owners they will not have to pay the household annual tax for one year.

Credit: ITV Granada

The mayor said he was "getting so angry" about dog mess and litter he needed the public's help to identify culprits in the act.

He said the plans were about boosting "civil pride" in the community.

The city's Liberal Democrats leader Richard Kemp said he was unconvinced by the proposals and said they were 'Totally irresponsible'.

Mr Anderson pledged to give those whose evidence leads to a prosecution free council tax for a year.

He said:

I'm asking people [to] please help us [and] provide us with information on anybody you see allowing their dog to foul the streets... [and] provide us with an address where they live.

When they go out we'll have people covertly watching them and if it leads to prosecution, I will make sure you get your council tax for free, because we'll fine those people the maximum amount of money - £1,000.

– Joe Anderson

Government promises to protect "Salford's rainforest"

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The government's announced a commitment to restoring peatlands in Greater Manchester. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has almost £1 million investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore "Salford's rainforest" and provide habitats for bog mosses which in turn support other species like carnivorous plants and crickets as well as vulnerable bird species like the curlew and short eared owl.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey is making the announcement on a visit to Chat Moss in Salford, an area of peatland that makes up around 30 per cent of the city of Salford.

The exciting work here in Salford is seeing birds and wildlife returning to the area and is an important part of realising that vision.

– Environment Minister, Therese Coffey

Our peatlands are amazing places for wildlife, as places to visit, and for the carbon they store. Sadly they have been mistreated, and have become badly damaged. But here at Chat Moss we are showing that we can turn the clocks back, and re-create a thriving living landscape bursting with life. With this new funding for peatland we will be able to do more of this valuable work.

– Dr Chris Miller, Lancashire Wildlife Trust

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Watch: New police recruits on Manchester's streets

Most of us know the worry of starting a new job, what if that job was a front line police officer?

One hundred new recruits to Greater Manchester Police have been getting to know their new beats this week.

Some of them have been been helping out a charity in Bolton by filling food parcels.

Tim Scott has been finding out. the face of police training has changed a bit over the years.

Evacuations underway as 'major' gas leak in Liverpool

By Ed Tyler

Liverpool city council is urging people to avoid the city centre where possible due to a 'major gas leak' on London Road in Liverpool.

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Emergency services have sealed off the area around Royal Liverpool University Hospital and roads closed in both directions East of Daulby Street.

Merseytravel has announced that all services within the city centre are subject to long delays and cancellations.

This will also come as unwelcome news to many of the city’s drivers after the M62 was also closed in both directions this morning due to a major collision.

The collision at around 6.50am between junctions 8 and 7 led to many Liverpool-bound commuters having to take alternative routes to work.

Further long delays are now expected due to the gas leak, where some people have been moved from their homes.

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