KUCHING: WWF-Malaysia is calling on the public not to consume wild or exotic meat this Lunar New Year as it is illegal in Sarawak to buy or sell wild meat in any form.
Its head of conservation for Sarawak, Dr Henry Chan, highlighted the selling of soft-shelled or freshwater turtles in the Padungan area here as a matter of concern.
He said it was observed that the number of people selling the turtles had doubled as the Lunar New Year approached.
“To our knowledge, the species sold are the Asian soft-shelled turtle and the South-East Asian box turtle. We have informed the sellers on a few occasions that it is an offence to sell wildlife in Sarwak but they seem to be ignoring our advice.
“Last week, during our chief executive Datuk Dionysius Sharma’s working visit to Kuching, he and I also advised the sellers to stop selling and release the turtles.
“Instead, the sellers tried to convince us that we could buy and release the turtles if we did not wish to eat them,” he said in a statement.
Chan said buying and releasing the turtles would be problematic as it would only create more demand for the animals in the market.
“We have received complaints from the public on the matter. Since we are a non-governmental organisation, we do not have the authority to take action against illegal trading of wildlife,” he said, adding that WWF-Malaysia informed the Sarawak Forestry Corporation and Kuching South City Council (MBKS) on the selling of the turtles last month.
He also said WWF-Malaysia had received information of soft-shelled turtles and other wild meat being sold in other parts of Sarawak via social media.
He hoped the authorities concerned would take the necessary action against those suplying, selling and buying wild meat.
Soft-shelled turtles from the family Tryonychidea, commonly known as labi-labi, are protected under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998.
Chan said animals categorised as protected species under the ordinance meant that they were now rare due to hunting, habitat destruction and cruel pet trade.
A licence is needed to keep them as pets, hunt, kill, capture, sell, import or export them, or to possess any recognisable part of these animals. The penalties for hunting or possessing any of these animals dead or alive or any of their parts without a licence is a RM10,000 fine and one year’s imprisonment.
Urging the public to do their part by not consuming wild meat, Chan said May 23 had been designated as World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge of the world’s oldest creatures.
“Human survival depends on the existence of functioning ecosystems and wildlife is the key that keeps forests alive,” he said.