Posted by: The ocean update | November 5, 2015

Uproar over turtle egg dinner for Minister (Sabah, Malaysia)

uproarturtleeggThursday, November 5th, 2015. Kota Kinabalu : Photos that went viral on social media of a Federal Minister, government officials and political leaders being served with turtle eggs at a political function in Beluran have angered several wildlife conservation groups in Sabah.

Possessing and consuming turtle eggs are illegal in Sabah and offenders can face a fine of up to RM50,000 or five years’ imprisonment.

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Danau Girang Field Centre issued a joint statement on Wednesday, condemning the act.

The Borneo Rhino Alliance, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation, Hutan, Kudat Turtle Conservation Society, Land Empowerment Animals People, Pacos Trust, Reef Guardian, Sabah Environmental Trust, Sabah Shark Protection Association and the Sabah Environmental Protection Association have also demanded the Sabah Wildlife Department to take action against those involved , hoping to send a strong message to the public.

It was learnt that the photos were taken end of August this year at an Umno Beluran function attended by Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Beluran Umno Chief and Sugut Assemblyman Datuk James Ratib allegedly at the Restoran Indah Keranamu in Sandakan. They said Green and the Hawksbill turtles are both totally protected species under the Schedule 1 of the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997. The photos were believed to have been uploaded by a Facebook user named “Deadturtles Sabah”.

Ismail Sabri denied consuming any of the turtle eggs served at the dinner.

“Of course not. I wasn’t sure there were turtle eggs there because no one ate it, maybe because I didn’t eat any,” he said.

“I haven’t eaten any turtle eggs in a long time. The doctor doesn’t allow me to because of my high cholesterol. Turtle eggs are among the things I am prohibited from eating, including cow brains,” he said, adding that he only ate fish.

It is understood that an honorary wildlife warden also attended the event while one of them is a senior official from the Sandakan Municipal Council who had launched an anti-turtle eggs function not so long ago!

Taman Hadiah Turtle Hatchery owner Alexander Yee said he was disappointed over the actions of the State and national leaders, saying they had completely disregarded the laws in Sabah.

Although Peninsular Malaysia has no law to forbid the consumption of turtle eggs, the Sabahan leaders should have been well aware of the local laws, he said.

Conservationist biologist Dr Benoit Goossens, who is Danau Girang Field Centre Director, said he was outraged and disgusted by the actions and wanted those involved to be fully responsible.

“What kind of message are the restaurant and the people consuming those turtle eggs sending to the next generation, to Sabah’s people, to all of us working hard to conserve and protect wildlife in our beloved Sabah?

“While a dedicated NGO is working hard to conserve a species, some careless officials consume products of the same species. What’s the point of all this hard work?”

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the Wildlife Department is already investigating the incident.

Wildlife Director William Baya said he had instructed two officers to investigate the incident and vowed to get to the bottom of the case as soon as possible.

“We will also seek assistance from Sandakan Municipal Council as well and the organisers of this dinner function to get a better picture of how turtle eggs managed to make it to the menu,” he said.

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