Malaysia: ‘Semporna becoming a killing field for sea turtles’

muguntan vanar The Star 1 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Conservation­ists fear that Sabah’s diving havens of Semporna are becoming a killing field for endangered sea turtles.

The growing number of sea turtle carcasses found over the years has raised concerns that the harvesting of the marine creatures for traditional medicinal values has gone unabated.

Environmental NGO Green Sem­porna co-founder Adzmin Fatta said firm action needed to be taken against perpetrators of the crime, which is occurring not only in Semporna waters but also in neighbouring southern Philippines.

“Since 2014, we have been receiving reports of large numbers of turtle carcasses found on the Ligitan, Bum Bum and Derawan islands.

“We know where it is taking place but it is a question of enforcement.

“It is definitely some kind of organised syndicate which is getting people in the transient coastal communities to do the killings,” he said in reference to the large number of Bajau Laut (sea gypsies) in the area.

“We believe that some businessmen are paying for the turtle parts.”

He added that in most cases, the turtle meat and plastron (lower shell) were removed from carcasses.

Adzmin said all enforcement agencies should work together to step up monitoring of the activities on the harvesters and the islands they operated from.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforce­ment Agency has from time to time caught some of those involved in the killings of turtles, but there is a need for more combined action with other agencies, including the Sabah Wildlife Department, he added.

He said the Wildlife Department should set up an office in Semporna to increase its presence in the area as currently it was operating from Tawau, about 100km away.

Adzmin said Green Semporna had been actively conducting public awareness among islanders and coastal villagers in Semporna but many like the Bajau Laut might be drawn by the money offered by towkays to harvest turtles.

Come up with alternative food source for maritime community in exchange of turtle meat, eggs, group tells Awang Ali Omar New Straits Times 30 Sep 17;

SANDAKAN: The government needs to provide the maritime community with alternative food sources if it wants to tackle consumption of turtle meat and eggs as well as poaching activity.

Friends of Sea Turtles Education and Research (Foster) president Alexander Yee said turtles have been the source of food among the locals in Semporna for the longest time.

“If we want to solve the problem, we not only have to put in place the rules, regulations and enforcement but we need to be able to educate the locals and have substitute food sources for them.

“If we tell them not to consume (turtle meats and eggs), what are they going eat? Everything (education, rules, regulations, and enforcement) has to run concurrently.

“The recent discovery (of mutilated turtles on Pulau Bum Bum) is a sad incident but we just have to keep trying. We need to have all those things in place to reduce this incident,” he said when contacted.

In providing his view on the case, Yee who has a turtle hatchery on Libaran Island off Sandakan, believed the turtles were poached by locals or Pala’u nomads for own consumption and for sale.

“My source said the meat has been dug out and the pouch where the turtle eggs are stored is also emptied. However, I’m not sure whether it (turtle) has decayed and that’s why it looks as if the internal (of the turtle) is empty.

“It’s quite obvious they are after the meat and eggs for consumption because the turtle shell is worth a lot of money. They did not take that.

“It could be that they took some (meat and eggs) for themselves and sold the rest but we wouldn’t know. I suspect they are also selling them because of the number of turtles found,” he said.

To a question whether the turtles were caught in local or neighbouring waters, Yee said it did not matter as all endangered turtles needed to be protected.

He explained turtles that nest in the Philippine are known to nest over in Sabah waters too.

“Turles don’t look for a particular area to nest. I know this for a fact because of my hatchery on Libaran Island. I have had turtles being tagged on Selingan (Turtle Island) and landing on Libaran.

“There are also turtles tagged in the Philippine and landed on Libaran. So they don’t roam specific areas,” stressed Yee.

Meanwhile, district wildlife officer Hussien Muin, in a statement, said their enforcement unit would carry out special operations dubbed Op Penjual and Op Pembeli aggressively to tackle the selling and buying of turtle eggs.

In continuation of the Op Penjual, which was initiated last month and saw three foreigners sentenced to imprisonment for selling turtle eggs, Op Pembeli was launched to discourage egg consumption.

“We are working closely with the police, Sandakan Municipal Council, Public Works Department and WWF to continue instil strong awareness on the long-term impact if turtle egg consumption is not tackled,” he said.