KOTA KINABALU - Selling or eating turtle eggs should be banned nationwide, not just in Sabah and Sarawak, said the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The conservation body made this call once again following the rampant smuggling of turtle eggs in several states.
These activities were causing a reduction in the nesting areas and taking some turtle populations to the brink of extinction, said WWF Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma.
He said that a recent survey in Terengganu led to the discovery of hundreds of turtle eggs up for sale.
The eggs were believed to have come from another state, possibly Sabah, or from another country, such as the Philippines, he said in a statement yesterday .
WWF Malaysia believes that the challenges of stopping turtle egg smuggling did not rest with Sabah alone and it was a threat to Malaysia's biodiversity and national security, he said.
He said Malaysia has had little success with turtle conservation because the states were left to make the laws relating to turtles, resulting in varying standards.
"While the sale of turtle eggs is prohibited in Sabah and Sarawak, this is not explicitly forbidden in Terengganu, with the exception of leatherback turtle eggs," he said, citing an example.
He said the situation was worsened by the fact that the lack of a national ban meant the sale of turtle eggs claimed to come from another state or internationally was permitted.
Since it was difficult to differentiate turtle eggs by place of origin, enforcement was challenging, he added.
Dr Sharma commended the Sabah marine police for seizing more than 2,000 turtle eggs in Sandakan recently.
But he said it would have been better if the smuggling did not happen at all.
"If left undisturbed on the nesting beach, 70 per cent to 80 per cent of those eggs would have hatched.
"We have lost about 1,500 hatchlings now," he said.
Malaysia is fortunate to host four species of marine turtles - leatherback, green, hawksbill and Olive Ridley.