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Turtle hunters nabbed off Semporna

Turtle hunters nabbed off Semporna

KOTA KINABALU: Two suspected sea turtle hunters, one of whom is 15 years old, were caught with turtle meat on their boat in waters off Sabah’s diving heaven of Semporna as more carcasses of the endangered reptile were found in nearby Pulau Mabul.

The arrest came after the Malay­sian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) received intelligence reports on suspected hunting and killing of turtles off Pulau Kerindin­gan at 1.30am yesterday.

MMEA Semporna base director Lt Cmdr Amiludin Yenggah said the teenager and the other suspect, aged 35, were caught in a pump boat after the team intercepted them near the island. Both had no valid personal identification documents on them.

Lt Cmdr Amiludin said four slices of turtle meat as well as equipment to catch turtles were discovered on their boat.

It is believed that the two, who claimed to be Bajau Laut (sea gypsies) from Pulau Omadal in Sempor­na, were going to sell the exotic meat, given the demand for it.

“We are continuing our efforts to tackle the problem of the hunting and killing of turtles in Semporna waters,” Lt Cmdr Amiludin said.

He urged those with information on such activity to contact the MMEA operations base at 089-782 619. The two are being investigated under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 and the Immigra­tion Act as they had no proper identity documents on them.

Another seven turtle carcasses, with their stomachs exposed, were found floating in waters near the popular Pulau Mabul on Saturday night.

Concerns over the killing of turtles in the waters off east coast Semporna, which is home to the internationally renowned diving heaven of Pulau Mabul, were raised last October after more than 100 turtle carcasses were found on Pulau Bum Bum.

The Sabah Wildlife Department made some arrests but the perpetra­tors were never charged, though it took action against a restaurant ow­­ner who purportedly offered exo­­tic meat to customers in Semporna.

Conservationists have been calling for more efforts to tackle turtle hunting and killing in Sabah, particularly in Semporna where such carcasses have been sighted from time to time.

By Muguntan Vanar

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