Malaysia: Sabah Wildlife Dept still unable to identify source in viral photo of abused turtle

stephanie lee The Star 7 Jan 19;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife authorities are still not able to find the source behind a viral photo, believed taken on a boat, which showed a turtle being abused.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said all personnel in the department are involved in finding out the source of the photo, and to investigate whether the incident happened in Sabah.

So far, we have yet to get any information as to who took the photo, where it was taken, and who the perpetrators are,” he said.

The photo, which shows a person sitting on a turtle with another stepping on it, had made its rounds on social media like Facebook and on messaging app WhatsApp.

They also called on the authorities to investigate the matter and take action against the offenders.

Turtles are one of the protected species in Sabah.

Tuuga said the department's taskforce comprising members from various enforcement agencies, non-governmental organisations and tour operators too, are not able to provide any information at the moment.

“We will try our best to find out who these people are, whether they are local or foreign tourists, when and where the incident happened,” he told The Star on Monday (Jan 7).

Tuuga also reminded all tour operators and tourists to take care of the flora and fauna and abide by the rules when travelling in Sabah.

Furore over photo of protected sea turtle being abused
stephanie lee The Star 6 Jan 19;

KOTA KINABALU: A photograph of a protected sea turtle being sat on and its head stepped on, most likely taken on a boat, is making its rounds in the social media.

It is not known who those people are (as their faces were all blurred), where they are from or even if the picture was taken anywhere in Sabah.

However, the photo is causing furore online, as social media users on Facebook and WhatsApp condemned the act, saying it was abuse and a total inconsideration towards the wildlife.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said from what she saw in the photo, it was clear that those in it have committed an offence.

“Turtles are fully protected species in Sabah, these people (I’m not sure if they are tourists or where they are from) are abusing the turtle by sitting on it and stepping on its head,” she said.

She said she had directed the Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga to investigate further.

Liew said regardless whether the offenders were tourists or locals, they clearly do not appreciate Sabah’s wildlife.

“Everyone must respect our laws in protecting our wildlife species,” she said.

She hopes to get more information on the incident so that action can be taken against the offenders.

Netizens angry after photo of child riding sea turtle goes viral
Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 6 Jan 19;

KOTA KINABALU: A photograph of a child riding a sea turtle, believed to be somewhere in Sabah, has sparked outrage among netizens, who are calling for action to be taken against the tour operator involved.

The picture, which was taken in what appeared to be a tourist boat, showed the child, wearing a life-jacket, sitting on top of the protected species while being surrounded by several people, believed to be tourists.

It went viral on Facebook and was also circulated through WhatsApp today. However, it could not be ascertained when or where the incident took place.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the department was aware of the photograph and is currently investigating the matter.

"I've checked with our enforcement team in Semporna and so far, they found no such incident has taken place. Perhaps, it's a recycled photo but I've instructed the team to look into it," he said.

Meanwhile, Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan, whose name was tagged in the picture on Facebook, said there was no further details on the incident provided by the complainant.

In order for the department to take action, he said the department would first need to verify the place, time and boat owner.

"Then they (the culprits) can be charged for endangering the life of a totally protected wildlife species (Schedule 1- Hawksbill Turtle)," he said.

The picture has attracted attention from netizens, who condemned the behaviour of the tourists and tour operators.

Some Facebook users said tourists should not be blamed but felt the tour operators should be fined and stripped of their licences for allowing it to take place.