KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department has been urged to investigate and take action again those responsible for the “turtle eggs issue”, regardless of their position.
New photos surfaced recently purportedly showing consumed turtle eggs on the plates of Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Beluran Umno chief Datuk James Ratib plates at an event on Aug 29.
Earlier this month, photos went viral on social media of a plate of unconsumed turtle eggs on the table at the dinner in Sandakan.
Citing evidence based on four new photos posted by user Deadturtle Sabah in the comments section of the Walai Penyu Resort Libaran Facebook page, several NGOs and research organisation Danau Girang Field Centre said the authorities must take necessary action.
“We are asking the Sabah Wildlife Department if they will charge the guests of the dinner for consuming, and the owner of the restaurant for serving eggs of a Totally Protected species,” they said in a joint statement on Thursday.
“Nobody should be above the law. We look forward to hearing the results of the department’s investigation into the matter,” said the representatives of Borneo Rhino Alliance, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, HUTAN, Kudat Turtle Conservation Society, Land Empowerment Animals People, PACOS, Reef Guardian, Sabah Environmental Trust, Sabah Shark Protection Association and Sabah Environmental Protection Association.
They pointed out that a boatman was arrested recently following the seizure of 3,000 turtle eggs on a pump boat and that the Wildlife Department has stated the suspect would be charged under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.
The groups said it was alarming that endangered species were being traded or killed in Sabah despite stringent laws, such as the case of two sun bears highlighted in the media just a few days ago.
“We cannot stay silent and allow this to go on and on. The public needs to voice their concern and the enforcement authorities need to do their job,” the groups added.
They added that regardless of where the eggs were from, such as from a neighbouring country, it was illegal to possess, sell or consume them.
Ismail Sabri has denied consuming the eggs, while Ratib said he did not know what type of eggs had been served.
On Thursday, the minister once again rebutted accusations against him, urging people not to assume that he ate the eggs just because they were served at the dinner.
“In these new images, there is indication that the personalities in question did indeed consume turtle eggs. This is not acceptable at all,” the groups said