KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department has been instructed to investigate a picture of a child riding a sea turtle, Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah Christina Liew said on Monday (Jan 7).
The photo, which went viral on social media, shows a young girl on a boat sitting astride what appears to be a live sea turtle. The photo also shows an adult placing his or her foot on the turtle while grasping the child’s life jacket.
Liew, who is also Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said such behaviour is unacceptable as turtles are protected by law in Sabah.
“I cannot comment further until the investigation is complete. What can I say - this is an offence.
"We welcome tourists to Sabah who visit because there are many beautiful places, but at the same time, we expect tourists to respect our laws. To catch a turtle, put it on a boat and ride it is unacceptable,” she said.
SEA TURTLES HAVE NERVES IN THEIR SHELLS
“Sea turtles have nerves in their shells and can feel things on their shell that we can on our skin; pressure, touch, heat and so on," said turtle ecologist Rushan Rahman.
"This also means they can feel pain if they are whacked, punctured or slashed."
Mr Rushan, who is with the Herpetological Society of Singapore, also said those who encounter these sea creatures in the wild should refrain from touching them.
“Give them loads of space, don’t make loud noises and no flash photography."
Should members of the public witness activities involving the handling of sea turtles, Mr Rushan advised them not to participate.
“Maybe have a quiet word with the tour operator to tell them it's not right,” he added.