Expert: Likely 360 turtles killed, not the 12,000 estimated


KOTA KINABALU: About 360 adult turtles were killed, based on the 9,000kg of dried sea turtle meat seized by police during a raid, says turtle conservation expert Dr James Alin.

Alin, an adviser to Friends Of Sea Turtles Education and Research, said the marine police seizure did not reflect the reported estimate of 12,000 turtles killed.

“If such a number was killed, we would have felt the impact on our turtle landings on the islands,” he said yesterday, referring to the estimated 12,000 death toll.

He said, on average, one can only get 40kg of fresh meat from an adult female green turtle species.

“Drying under the sun would turn it into 25kg of dried meat.

“In other words, a hunter needs 1.6kg of fresh meat to get the equivalent of 1kg of dried meat.

“The 600g loss is evaporated water and salt,” he said.

He said that based on the formula, the 9,000kg of dried turtle meat recovered would reflect about 360 adult green sea turtles killed.

Alip, who has interviewed former convicted poachers and sellers in the Philippines, said the value per kilogramme of dried meat was about RM30 based on black market rates in Palawan, Sitangkai and Tawi-Tawi islands in southern Philippines.

The value of the 9,000kg in the black market would be around RM270,000.

On Monday, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jauteh Jikun disclosed that marine police seized about 9,000kg dried turtle meat and other sea produce from a trawler boat in Mangsee reef waters between Pulau Bangi and Pulau Bangsi in Sabah’s northern Kudat on Nov 29.

Four suspects abandoned the Semporna-registered trawler and escaped to a neighbouring country.

Police detained the owner of the trawler for questioning.

According to Alip, the poachers in the area often cross the border from Palawan to Balambangan Island in Sabah.

“They have relatives residing in Sebogoh and other illegal squatter water villages at Balambangan,” said Alip, who described them as small-time smugglers whose profitable side came from dried Green turtle meat, carapace of Hawksbill and trepang (sea cucumber).

“They ply between Kudat and the east coast, along the way collecting live sea turtles whenever possible, or else they would buy dried meat from different hunters in Semporna and Kudat near Simanguak Island,” he said.

“Gravid (pregnant) sea turtles usually stay at the coral reefs near the rookeries in between the nesting time,” he added, adding that these poachers used uninhabited or unguarded islands to carry out their activities.

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