KOTA KINABALU: The judiciary in Sabah came in for praise from WWF-Malaysia for the weight it placed on the gravity of wildlife crime.
It hoped the judiciary will continue its good work in protecting the environment in Sabah.
In a statement that followed the heavy sentencing of a local for illegal possession of turtle eggs recently, WWF-Malaysia saluted the court for using a guideline for wildlife crime in passing sentence.
It said it was all for the strengthening of the environmental court in the state.
“WWF-Malaysia lauds the Sabah court for the use of this guideline as illegal wildlife trade is considered a serious crime,”it said here today.
This is vital to ensure the survival of species unique to Sabah, including our iconic marine sea turtles.”
Alsirad Samad, 21, pleaded guilty last week to having 20 turtle eggs without a permit at the time of his arrest and was handed a year’s jail sentence and fined RM200,000 in default two years’ imprisonment.
After the court proceedings it was learnt that he could not raise the fine, meaning he would be spending three years in prison for his crime.
Sessions Court in Judge Elsie Primus handed the sentence 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.
Former Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong Dak Wah had in June 2019 launched the guideline for wildlife crime.
In the statement, WWF-Malaysia said based on a report by Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, a rapid assessment on the trade in marine turtles in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, published in 2019, found there were a total of 129 cases of marine turtle eggs being 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,” said Monique Sumampouw, WWF-Malaysia’s Head of Marine.
“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.”
Towards this end, Sumampouw said WWF-Malaysia welcomed 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,” she said.