KOTA KINABALU: A former Sabah environment minister has demanded that the state Wildlife Department (SWD) speed up its probe on allegations that a family had served protected turtle eggs during their dinner recently.
A member of the family, which is said to be linked to a former assemblyman, had shared a photo on social media of their dinner, showing a host of seafood served on banana leaves but the turtle eggs caught the most attention.
The photo of the incident, which is believed to have taken place in the Beluran east coast district, has since been taken down but reappeared later on another Facebook page, drawing further criticism from the public who called for action against the family.
Christina Liew, who is a former state tourism, culture and environment minister, said the SWD must trace how the turtle eggs could have found their way into the home and ended up as part of the family’s Chinese New Year dinner (as reported by The Star).
“To deter would-be perpetrators, the department’s investigation must lead to prosecution and conviction of the alleged offender. No one is above the law.
“I am utterly disappointed that some citizens have absolutely no respect for the law against the possession and consumption of turtle eggs in Sabah.
“To put a stop to this illegal activity, we must beef up the law with stricter enforcement and penalties,” said Liew today.
SWD director Augustine Tuuga told the media later that his department had taken upon itself to investigate the matter although no one had come forward to lodge an official report on the incident.
Liew, who is also a former deputy chief minister, reminded that turtles are a totally protected species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Section 41 of the enactment states that it is an offence to possess these animals or their products, including the shell, meat and eggs.
The Tawau MP also agreed with the conservation NGO, Friends of Sea Turtles Education and Research (FOSTER), that law enforcement and conservation must go hand in hand for a fruitful outcome.
“Without stringent measures to curb the smuggling and sale of turtle eggs, FOSTER’s eight-year laudable conservation work may become a futile exercise ultimately,” she said.
In July 2013, FOSTER signed a five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the SWD for a sea turtle conservation and protection programme on Libaran Island.
Five years later, Liew, as the then environment minister, witnessed the signing of a second MoU between FOSTER and the department for an extension of the collaborative programme until August 2023.