KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - An academic studying the economic behaviour of Sabah's northern communities stumbled upon 60 decomposing turtle carcasses on a remote island.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Dr James Alin, an economist, said he was carrying out research at Pulau Tiga - an island under the proposed Tun Mustapha marine park in Northern Sabah when he smelt a stench.
"The smell was so strong, and after looking around for the source, my guide and I discovered these carcasses last week," he said.
Dr Alin added that leftover flesh and discarded internal organs were decomposing in some of creatures while others were still intact with only some of their parts missing.
"I also noticed that many of the carcasses scattered at the sites had their scutes (scale-like structures used for making jewellery) removed," he said.
The lecturer said he was no turtle expert but suspected the carcasses belonged to the hawksbill sea turtle, green turtle, olive ridleys, and loggerhead species, among others.
Dr Alin said there was also a hut-like structure as well as a fireplace near the area where they found the carcasses, believed to have been used by poachers.
He said over his 10 years' experience doing research on the islands here, he had heard about turtles and other marine life poaching, but had never seen evidence of such claims.
"The islanders even told us about locals and foreigners poaching all the time, some for self-consumption and some to be sold," he said, adding that they claimed that the authorities were informed about such incidences.
"But these claims were never supported with proof, and the authorities would not investigate. That's why these activities never stop," he said.