KOTA KINABALU, Oct 4 — Eleven slaughtered turtles were discovered during an integrated operation by the state Wildlife Department officials in Sabah’s east coast Semporna waters.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said authorities found the remains of turtles, along with a hook used to capture the endangered animals, as well as cooking utensils.
He said enforcement officers from the Ops Khazanah Bersatu conducted patrols in the waters from Kampung Sisipan to Tanjung Pantau-Pantau on Bum Bum Island Semporna and made the discoveries between October 1 and 2.
“The patrol team, which included three rangers from the department and five personnel from police General Operations Force’s (GOF) Tiger platoon, spotted the 11 slaughtered turtles at Kampung Amboh-Amboh on October 1 at around 9.40am.
“However, there were no suspects around,” he said in a statement here.
They confiscated white sacks of turtle meat, 11 pieces of plastron, one hook, cooking stove and utensils, knife, axe and whetstone at the scene.
“The team returned to the hotspot the next day but could not locate the suspects who are believed to be sea gypsies,” he said adding that operations to arrest the suspects were still underway.
He however admitted that it will be difficult to track them down without any identification.
Tuuga said wildlife crimes involving sea turtles in Semporna are usually committed by the nomadic Pelauh, who are very difficult to prosecute because of their lack of identity and use of small boats that are very mobile and can land on any island.
“They can easily escape into the mangrove forest to hide,” he said.
On July 6, the joint patrol managed to arrest a suspect with 12 pieces of plastron, 39 pieces of marginal scales and 4.8kg of turtle fat.
He was sentenced to four years jail and fined RM150,000 by the court after pleading guilty in court.
“We hope to get the cooperation of locals to report turtle hunting activities, in our efforts to eradicate the problem in Semporna,” he said.
Turtles are a totally protected species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Section 41 of the enactment states that it is an offence to possess these animals or their products, including the shell, meat and eggs.