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WWF-Malaysia Supports Harsher Sentencing on Wildlife Crime

7 July 2020, Kota Kinabalu: A local 21-year old was found guilty in possession of marine turtle eggs by the Sessions Court in Sabah presided over by Judge Elsie Primus.

The Court imposed a fine of RM200,000.00 in default of two years of imprisonment from the date of arrest, under Schedule I of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment (WCE) 1997. The sentence imposed is referenced to the Sentencing Guideline on the Wildlife Crime developed by the judiciary, which was done in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia.

WWF-Malaysia lauds the Sabah Court for the use of this Guideline as illegal wildlife trade is considered a serious crime and is vital in ensuring the survival of species unique to Sabah, including our iconic marine sea turtles.

In June 2019, the then Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak - Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima David Dak Wah launched this guideline for wildlife crime. WWF-Malaysia is in support of the judiciary in strengthening the environmental court in Sabah.

Based on TRAFFIC’s report, ‘A rapid assessment on the trade in marine turtles in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam’, published in 2019, a devastating total of 129 cases of marine turtle eggs were seized in Sabah between 1999 and 2017.

“The green, hawksbill and olive Ridley turtles are Totally Protected under Schedule 1 of the WCE 1997 of Sabah. It is important for all stakeholders to ensure the survival of Sabah’s marine turtle population, including the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. Found either nesting, seeking for food or migrating along the coasts and waters of Sabah, these marine turtles are threatened by various human threats particularly egg and turtle poaching,” said Monique Sumampouw, Head of Marine, WWF-Malaysia.

WWF-Malaysia welcomes the application of the Court’s sentencing guideline, which shows the importance placed on preventing wildlife crime by the Sabah Environmental Courts.

Green turtles help in maintaining seagrass beds while hawksbill turtles help to maintain coral reefs. When green turtles graze seagrasses or hawksbill turtles forage for sponges among coral reefs, they increase the productivity of these habitats. Commercially important species such as shrimp, lobster, and fish thrive in healthier and productive seagrass beds and coral reefs, which are known to be important breeding and nursery areas for many species of fish and other marine life. Thus, marine turtles contribute to healthier habitats, which in turn contributes to better marine harvest, which then benefits the fishery industry.   

In order for a turtle population to maintain, every turtle egg should be saved. It is important to conserve marine turtles as they play a vital role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems which in turn, contributes to human survival in the long run.

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