KOTA KINABALU: Eleven freshly slaughtered turtles were recovered during an integrated operation by the state Wildlife Department officials in Sabah's east coast Semporna waters.
The operations, jointly conducted by three rangers of the department with five personnel of the police General Operations Force's (GOF) Tiger platoon, however, did not make any arrests during the raids between Oct 1 and Oct 2.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said Monday (Oct 4) that under Ops Khazanah Bersatu, the teams conducted patrols in the waters from Kg Sisipan to Tanjung Pantau-Pantau on Bum Bum Island off Semporna.
He said at around 9.40am on Oct 1, the patrol team spotted the 11 slaughtered turtles at Kg Amboh-Amboh. However, there were no suspects around.
They confiscated white sacks of suspected turtle meat, 11 pieces of plastron (turtle shell), one hook, cooking stove and utensils, knife, axe and whetstone at the scene.
The team returned to the hotspot the next day (Oct 2) but could not locate the suspects who are believed to be pelauh or sea gypsies.
Operations to catch the suspects are still underway, Tuuga added.
He said wildlife crimes involving sea turtles that occur in Semporna are usually committed by pelauh who have no identity and are very difficult to catch because they use small boats that are easy to land on the island.
"They usually escape into the mangrove forest to hide," he added.
On July 6, Tuuga said the joint patrol managed to arrest a suspect with 12 pieces of plastron, 39 pieces of marginal scales and 4.8kg of turtle fat.
He was sentenced to four years’ jail and fined RM150,000 by the court after pleading guilty to the charge.
"We hope for the cooperation of local residents to report this turtle hunting activity to the department if they have information in our efforts to eradicate the problem in Semporna," he added.