Among the 19 severely decomposing Green turtle carcasses found on Pulau Tiga, off Kudat, just about a couple of hours’ boat ride away from neighbouring Philippines. — Photo courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department
KUDAT: More wildlife, including the rare greenback turtle would be killed or smuggled out of the State if members of the public keep quiet about poaching and other illegal activity.
Sabah Wildlife Department West Coast Office wildlife officer Roland Niun rued the fact that villagers in nearby Kampung Tiga, which is off Kudat, knew about smuggling of the protected Green Turtles activity but failed to notify the relevant authority.
The SWD and Sabah Park Rangers found 19 rotting carcasses on Pulau Tiga, just a couple of hours’ boat ride away from the Philippines.
“We highly suspect that these turtles were meant to be smuggled out alive by sea to a foreign country but due to the constant sea patrols by MMEA (Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency) and Marine Police, they failed to do so.
“This Island is very strategically located for smugglers as it is the closest island to the Philippines and is uninhabited,” said Niun.
He lamented: “If they had passed the information to us earlier, then maybe we could have acted fast enough to catch the culprits”.
SWD director William Baya meanwhile, called on the people to contact the department’s 24 hour hotline number at 012-8019289 to report any kind of information that could assist in the investigation on the case, as well as future cases.
Niun described the latest case as “very similar” to last year’s discovery of 50 decomposing carcasses by a Universiti Malaysia Sabah lecturer.
Niun said the island’s proximity to neighbouring Philippines may be the reason why it was deemed a suitable location by turtle smugglers to hide their “smuggling items” before taking them out.
“Pulau Tiga is an Island located at the northern side of Balambangan-Banggi channel, north of Kudat and about two hours by speedboat from Karakit, the main town on Banggi Island.
He, however, expressed sadness that some villagers knew of the activity but failed to notify the relevant authority soon.
Meanwhile Baya described the incident as a “tragedy”.
“Since the area is within the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), which comes under the control of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), we hope to work more closely with MMEA, Marine Police and other relevant agencies to monitor and patrol these area and to catch these culprits who are responsible for this heinous crime,” said Baya.
He added that the area where the carcasses were found was within the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park, measuring almost a million hectares.
Rangers from Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Parks inspecting the 19 carcasses found on Pulau Tiga, off Kudat. — Photo courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department
“It harbours one of the richest marine flora and fauna complexes in the world and is also home to more than 80,000 coastal dwellers that depend on a healthy and sustainable supply of marine resources.”
Currently, the carcasses have been brought to the headquarters here for full post-mortem.
“Though most of the carcasses are in a very decomposed state, we still hope some light can be shed on the cause of these turtles’ death, thus assisting in the investigation,” said Baya.
Under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, Section 1 Schedule 1, the Green Turtle is a “Fully Protected Species” and any person convicted for hunting this species can face up to five years’ jail or a fine of RM50,000, or both.