KOTA KINABALU - The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes that there is a major international syndicate involved in the smuggling of sea turtles in Sabah's northern Kudat district.
WWF Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said a large turtle smuggling syndicate involving international and local groups was engaging coastal folk and islanders to poach the turtles.
"It is said that the turtles are being smuggled to China, Vietnam and other countries. These poachers managed to get through the borders by associating with various local counterparts," he said in a statement that condemned the killing of over 60 turtles in Pulau Tiga in Kudat.
"The authorities should act immediately against poaching activities, especially those performed by organised syndicates," he said, adding that the Malaysian turtle population had declined based on data.
"The Leatherbacks and Olive Ridleys have declined by more than 99 per cent in Malaysia. In Terengganu, the Green turtles, by far the most common species in Malaysia, has declined by more than 20 per cent and Hawksbill turtles by approximately 70 per cent," he pointed out.
The recent killing of 60 sea turtles in the eco-sensitive Pulau Tiga, which lies within the proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) in northern Sabah, occurred despite all efforts taken to protect the endangered species, Dr Dionysius said.
"The issue reinforces the urgent need for a concerted effort to eradicate poaching activities in the proposed park."