It was a bittersweet start to the month for conservationists in Sabah as the Sandakan Marine Police successfully seized a total of 6,500 marine turtle eggs from poachers last week.
"While we celebrate a seizure because it deprives poachers of their ill-gotten gains, we also mourn it because such seizure often means loss of wildlife. In this particular case, it is a loss of 6,500 marine turtle hatclings," said Dr. Chris Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and Dato Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director of WWF Malaysia in a joint press statement yesterday.
Chris and Dionysius commended the police for the seizure and the public who provided information that led to the discovery of the eggs.
Chris and Dionysius view poaching as a serious matter as it endangers the survival of a species that already faces numerous other threats to their survival. Dr. Chris Shepherd painted a very grim picture. He said, "All odds are stacked against the turtles. As female turtles lay eggs each nesting season, many are taken by poachers and predators from the word go. Hatchlings are picked off on their maiden journey to sea or get caught in fishing nets as they grow older. Very few young ones survive into their first year."
The State has taken a strong stance against poachers. The Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997 restricts the collecting or possessing of any marine turtle egg without an express permit.
The Marine police are also actively monitoring the situation with frequent seizures.
An estimated 13, 200 turtles have been seized to date. This represents 65 percent of seizures nationwide. The largest seizure took place in 2008 when marine police managed to seize 10, 000 turtle eggs from four men in Sandakan.
The difficulties in arresting and prosecuting offenders especially across international borders have led Chris and Dionysius to call for international cooperation and to urge Southeast Asian nations to make a concerted effort to stop the poaching and trading of turtle eggs in these countries.
Source: Insight Sabah