Malaysia: Social media fumes over images of foreign tourists manhandling fragile marine life, thought to be in Malaysia

HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN New Straits Times 10 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Images circulating on social media of tourists removing marine life out of their habitat, thought to be near a beach in Malaysia, and posing with them in pictures have outraged nature lovers.

In one image, a group of sixteen people believed to be tourists from China, pose in their swimwear, with six of them holding corals and starfish.

One of the women is seen holding a sign by WorldVentures travel club with the message ‘You Should Be Here'.

The exact location of the beach is not yet known, but claims have been made that it is on an island in Malaysia.

Malaysia-based Worldventures in a statement to the NST denied organising the trip and believed it was arranged by the members themselves.

"WorldVentures has not organised any trip to Semporna (in Sabah).

The trip was probably organised on the members’ own initiative.

"The incident is being investigated internally by our compliance department," the statement said. The company added that conservation and preservation of the environment, including the marine habitat has always been its top priority.

It is understood that the compliance department is tracking down the said members involved in the incident. Reaction to the images by nature lovers ranges from irritation to fury.

Diver Mohd Azwan Ali, 27, said he was shocked and outraged when he saw the pictures.

"Sea creatures should be respected. As 'visitors' in their habitat, we should not simply touch anything under the water, let alone take it out to pose with for pictures.

"Such behaviour would stress the starfish and even the corals, which might cause them to die," he said.

Another diver, Muhammad Izzat Mainur, 25, said he could not believe how some people could be so ignorant when dealing with sea creatures.

"It saddens me to see how the corals and starfish were treated by this group of tourists.

"We are not supposed to touch corals, as our hands are contaminated with bacteria, which can kill them, as they are very sensitive.

"We are supposed to protect them, and such behaviour could damage the ecosystem," he said when contacted.

Izzat said he hopes that such behaviour will stop, and that tourists will be more careful when going for holidays at islands.

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