Yesterday, the Danau Girang Field Centre Facebook page shared a picture that showed Rural and Regional Development Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob as well as Beluran Umno division chief Datuk James Ratib and Sandakan municipal council deputy president Mohd Hamsan Awang Supain among 5 other men seated at a restaurant in Sandakan, for dinner.
It didn’t seem like a big deal but upon closer inspection of the picture, believed to have been taken on 29th August this year, amongst the “dishes” served were at least two dozen turtle eggs and some lobsters placed on the “Lazy Susan” in front of them. The post has since been shared over 3,000 times by outraged Malaysian netizens and wildlife conservationists alike.
The virality of the pictures prompted Ismail Sabri to react, denying that he had eaten any of it.
When asked by MMO if he consumed any turtle eggs, Ismail Sabri replied, “Of course not. I wasn’t sure there were turtle eggs there because no one ate it, maybe because I didn’t eat any I haven’t eaten any turtle eggs in a long time.”
“The doctor doesn’t allow me to because of my high cholesterol. Turtle eggs are among the things I am prohibited from eating, including cow brains,” he said, adding that he only ate fish.
Turtles became protected under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997 and thus, it’s an offence to harvest, sell or consume turtle eggs in the state. Those convicted are liable to a fine of RM50,000 or to 5 years’ imprisonment or both.
In a separate report by The Star Online, Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya confirmed that an investigation into the incident has been initiated and is currently ongoing. However, it is unknown if the operator of the restaurant where the dinner was held had been questioned.
More details to come.