Sad episode: The dead green sea turtles floating in east coast waters off Semporna.
KOTA KINABALU: Four more endangered green sea turtles have been killed in Sabah’s east coast waters off Semporna.
The turtles were seen floating between Bum Bum Island and Kulapuan Island by a Fisheries Department staff, who then posted it on his Facebook page but later removed it.
The latest killings came hardly a month after the discovery of 50 dead green sea turtles in Pulau Tiga in the northern Kudat district, a case that remains unsolved.
Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia have begun an investigation into the deaths of the green sea turtles in Semporna.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah academician and researcher Dr James Alin, who discovered the Pulau Tiga killings last month, said it was another sad episode in Sabah’s turtle conservation efforts.
Dr Alin said such deaths were unfortunately common in Semporna as he had seen them during his field trips to the area.
Following his discovery of the dead turtles in Kudat, he said he was called to meet with officials from the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, which oversees various wildlife conservation efforts.
“At the beginning of that meeting, I showed slides of sea turtles kept alive inside a pen (fish cage) in Balambangan Island. I asked if any of the enforcement agencies was interested to arrest the owner.
“None of them seemed to be keen despite me offering to take them to the place,” he claimed, adding that a lack of manpower and logistics were not an excuse as many other agencies, including maritime, were ready to assist.
He claimed that wildlife officials were upset with him for highlighting the dead turtles in the media.
On the latest killing of sea turtles, Dr Alin said the suspects could be farmers, fishermen or the foreign crew of deep sea trawlers operating under joint venture companies in Sabah waters.
“The possible suspects are seaweed farmers who are wary of the turtles (known to the locals as Bokko) that can wipe out their seaweed farms overnight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said a hotline would be set up by end of the month for people to report about turtle killing and hunting.
“This will enable us to respond faster in our efforts to protect sea turtles,” he said.
Masidi, who said they were investigating the death of the sea turtles, said the move was part of efforts to strengthen enforcement.