A National University of Singapore (NUS) sailing trip has come under scrutiny after photos of students posing with giant clam shell they had found drew flak online.
Last month, 12 NUS students and alumni sailed to Indonesia's Riau Islands for a week with Associate Professor Martin Henz, who teaches at NUS' School of Computing and Faculty of Engineering.
They returned to Singapore with shells, including a giant clam shell, as keepsakes.
But a photo of them with the shells in a Straits Times article on Monday sparked a debate.
Environment groups and researchers pointed out that the giant clam is a protected species, and proper permits are needed before any animal parts can be imported across borders, including dead clam shells.
Mr David Tan, 27, a researcher in the Evolutionary Biology Laboratory at NUS, said it was "alarming" to see the group had brought the giant clam shells back.
"One of the objectives of the programmes was to encourage a love for nature... but this ran entirely counter to it."
Giant clams play an important role in the building of coral reefs. Even after they die, their shells are deposited on the reefs, attracting marine life and enhancing biodiversity.Prof Henz, an avid sailor who has taken NUS students sailing in the region since 2013, said: "This has been a learning experience, and we will be more mindful of our actions in the future to neither leave anything behind nor remove anything from nature."
Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, is working with the team to hand the shells over to the relevant authorities.
This article was first published on February 1, 2017
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