Authorities working to combat turtle egg smuggling

KOTA KINABALU: The threat of turtle egg smuggling from the Philippines to Sabah is a serious issue, and authorities on both sides are working together to prevent it from continuing.

Mohamad Ali R. Dimaren, Director II for Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Research and Development Services in the Philippines, stated that they had implemented inter-agency protection and enforcement measures to address it.

“The smuggling of eggs to Sabah remains a serious threat but we are doing all we can to prevent this from happening,” he told the media during the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area (Tihpa) Conference 2023 here yesterday.

He said, like in Sabah, selling turtle eggs is a crime where offenders could face between 5,000 pesos (RM419) and 5 million pesos (RM419,000) in fines or imprisonment between five months and five years, depending on the severity of the offence.

“It depends on how many eggs are found on the person,” said Mohamad.

For Sabah, the offence comes under Section 41(1) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, which provides for a fine of between RM50,000 and RM250,000 and a jail term of between a year and five years, or both, upon conviction.

Earlier in the event, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said that despite the establishment of the Tihpa region, turtles still face numerous threats in the form of habitat loss, pollution, overfishing and climate change.

She said these threats are compounded by practices such as turtle egg and meat consumption, shell ornaments and turtle-based traditional medicines.

She said the Tihpa region is the world’s first transboundary marine protected area for marine turtles.

It was established in May 1996 when a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed by the two countries in Manila.

Liew said it is one of the world’s most critical nesting grounds for endangered species of marine turtles including the Hawksbill, Green, Leatherback and Olive Ridley sea turtles.

This region also supports several other flagship species of conservation concern, such as fish, marine invertebrates and mammals, she said.

“Since the inception of this transboundary collaboration, there have been many significant achievements.

“I was informed that on the Malaysian side, specifically in the Turtle Islands Park of Sabah, we have records from 1979 until March 2023 that about 21,930,308 baby turtles have been released back to the sea,” said Liew.

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