Saved In The Nick Of Time, Some 1,400 Tortoises Headed For Vietnamese Wok

A boat from Vietnam was waiting for the smugglers along Malaysian international borders; first time smuggling and trading of tortoises detected by MMEA

First Admiral Adam, centre, and other MMEA officials take a closer look at the tortoises that were on its way to a Vietnamese vessel outside Pulau Mengalum. – Photo credits MMEA Kota Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU – The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Kota Kinabalu foiled an attempt to smuggle out 1,400 tortoises worth RM42,000 by boat, early Wednesday.

Its enforcement chief here, Maritime First Admiral Adam Aziz said based on a public tip-off and intelligence work, the agency detained a boat in the waters between Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manukan, about 3am.

“The tortoises are believed to be used for preparing exotic dishes in a neighbouring country, said to be Vietnam,” he said.


Admiral Adam said the boat was travelling without any lights on and heading towards Pulau Mengalum with six crew members aged between 23 and 44 years.

“On inspection, several baskets containing 1,400 tortoises of which 200 had died, were found hidden under the fish compartment,” he told reporters, here Wednesday.

However, it could not be immediately ascertained the species of the tortoise and whether they are listed under the wildlife protection list in the state.

Adam said the initial investigation found that the tortoises had been obtained from Kinarut and uploaded at the beach area near Anjung Senja, here, before being sent to a foreign boat which was waiting at the Pulau Mengalum waters.

Such sad faces that they were caught. Had they escaped, these smugglers would have raked in a fortune.

He added that the reptiles would be handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department for further action.

Investigations will be carried out under the state’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1996 which carries a fine of between RM30,000 and RM100,000 and a minimum jail term of six months to five years.