Malaysia: Ban turtle egg sale, state urged

Ling Poh Lean and A. Azim Idris New Straits Times 28 Jul 12;

BAD NAME: Terengganu has become a trading hub, says conservationist

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Terengganu government should not delay in imposing a ban on the trading of turtle eggs to avoid giving the state and the country a bad name.

In making the call, Turtle Conservation Centre co-founder Professor Chan Eng Heng said tourists would usually buy the eggs out of curiosity and the state was already famous for the wrong reason.

"If this continues, it will give a very bad name not only to the state, but also the country as we will be seen to have failed in efforts to protect the endangered species."

She noted that while the egg collection was banned in many major turtle nesting beaches, traders could still get the supply from smaller beaches and by smuggling from other states.

Chan said some traders in the state were smuggling the eggs via post from Sabah, where turtle eggs trading was banned.

"The eggs from Sabah are smuggled in from the Philippines, where such trading is also banned. Terengganu has become the hub for the eggs trading," she added.

Turtle eggs are widely available in Terengganu's markets, selling for between RM25 and RM30 per pack of 10 eggs. Chan also said they were now concentrating on educating the public not to eat turtle eggs.

"As long as there is demand, the trading will still go on in the black market even if the state government decides to impose a ban."

She said the centre had held turtle workshops in schools and at private functions to educate the public, especially the younger generation on ways to save the turtles.

WWF-Malaysia, in a statement, said in line with its reputation as a "turtle state", the state government could only be commended if it chose to take the lead in banning the trading of turtle eggs.

However, it considered the state government's effort to gazette Rantau Abang beach as a turtle sanctuary as commendable. But it also felt that allowing the sale of turtle eggs was inconsistent to the aims of safeguarding the state's icon.

Several traders at Pasar Payang bazaar in Kuala Terengganu had agreed not to sell the eggs if the government declared it illegal.

A trader, who only wanted to be known as Rofizah, said although the eggs were a good source of income, she would not break the law. The 52-year-old, who has been trading at the bazaar for more than 10 years, sells the Olive Ridley sea turtle eggs for about RM30 per packet of 10.

"Many of our customers come as far as Singapore to buy the eggs. That is what attracts many people to our stalls."

A check by the New Straits Times at the bazaar revealed at least one in 10 stalls offered packets of turtle eggs for between RM15 and RM50 each depending on the quantity and where the eggs were obtained.