PETALING JAYA: Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has denied consuming turtle eggs during an event in Sabah.
“Saya memang pantang makan telur penyu kerana kolesterol yang tinggi (I don’t eat turtle eggs as they are high in cholesterol).
“It has been a long time since I’ve eaten turtle eggs,” he said in a text message to The Star.
He said this yesterday when told the Sabah Wildlife Department had opened investigations into the matter after photographs of him being served turtle eggs at a seafood restaurant in Sandakan appeared all over social media.
Seated with him at the table where the alleged turtle eggs were placed was Beluran Umno chief Datuk James Ratib.
In Kota Kinabalu, Wildlife Department director William Baya said they had begun their probe after being made aware of the photographs.
Turtles are protected under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997.
It is considered an offence to be in possession of these animals or their products such as eggs and those convicted face a fine of RM50,000 or up to five years’ jail or both.
The photographs, which have gone viral on social media, have sparked an outcry among conservationists here.
“I have directed two of my officers to investigate this case by questioning the owner of the restaurant.
“We will also seek the assistance of the Sandakan Municipal Council and the organisers of the dinner function to get a better picture of how turtle eggs managed to make it on the menu,” said William.
When contacted, James denied that turtle eggs were served during the dinner.
Asked what where the eggs on their table, James replied: “I don’t know.”
A group of NGOs and research organisations expressed disappointment upon discovering the photographs.
“What message are we conveying to the world when our own government officials consume products of endangered species?” they asked.
They urged the state Wildlife Department to act against the offenders to send out a strong message that protected species were not for sale or consumption.
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