KOTA KINABALU - Turtle conservation efforts in the biodiversity rich Coral Triangle are being hampered by the harvesting of eggs for human consumption, especially in southern Philippines.
The Coral Triangle is the sea surrounded by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. It has an abundance of marine life, including several species of turtles.
Other than egg harvesting, scores of turtles are also killed in waters off the state's east coast partly due to collisions with tourist boats.
According to Sabah Parks director Paul Basintal, turtle eggs from the Philippines were smuggled to Peninsular Malaysia through Sabah.
He said there were three Philippine islands located near Sandakan's Turtle Island Park, consisting of another three islands, that form a huge nesting ground for the turtles.
An estimated one million eggs are laid at these six islands yearly, but the Philippines had only designated one of its islands as a conservation area, which also lies in an area difficult to manage as it falls under an autonomous region.
Speaking at the Coral Triangle Initiative seminar here yesterday, Basintal said that there was a sharp drop in turtle eggs coming from southern Philippines during the Malaysian security forces' offensive against the Sulu gunmen in Lahad Datu and Semporna districts in February and March this year.
However, he said that intrepid smugglers could also be using courier services to send turtle eggs to the peninsula as these could not be easily detected by airport scanners.
Earlier at the seminar, Rantau Abang Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre chief Syed Abullah Syed Abdul Kadir said about half of turtle eggs sold in Terengganu and Kelantan were from Sabah as well as from Indonesia.
Malaysian fishermen could also have been trading their catch for the turtle eggs with their Indonesian counterpart at sea.
Meanwhile, Sabah Parks had recorded 225 turtle deaths over the past 12 years.