Over the weekend, a disturbing photo of a young child riding a sea turtle in what appears to be a tourist boat has been circulating on the internet, causing widespread shock and outrage among netizens.
According to the New Straits Times, the incident was believed to have taken place somewhere in Sabah and has already been brought to the attention of the state’s Wildlife Department. The department is currently investigating the matter. Its director Augustine Tuuga told the daily,
“I’ve checked with our enforcement team in Semporna and so far, they found no such incident has taken place. Perhaps, it’s a recycled photo but I’ve instructed the team to look into it.”
Dr Sen Nathan, the Wildlife Department’s assistant director, also told the daily that those responsible can be charged with endangering the life of a Hawksbill Turtle, a totally protected wildlife species. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Hawksbill sea turtles are a critically endangered species.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew also commented on the viral photo, reiterating the fact that the tourists have committed an offence. She was quoted by The Star as saying,
“Turtles are fully protected species in Sabah, these people (I’m not sure if they are tourists or where they are from) are abusing the turtle by sitting on it and stepping on its head.”
Apart from the tourists, netizens have also called for the authorities to take strict action against the tour operator involved in this alleged incident.
It’s no secret that the tourism industry has greatly affected the lives of sea turtles in Malaysia. While these animals are frequent targets of poachers, turtle eggs and meat are also in high demand among tourists. Many turtles are also accidentally killed by boat propellers near tourist attractions.
We hope the authorities take appropriate action to ensure that this incident will never repeat itself. Let’s also do our best to protect our wildlife and treat them with a little more respect!
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