Thousands of confiscated turtles ‘put to sleep’, says wildlife department

Some of the baby red-eared sliders confiscated from the luggage of two Indian nationals at klia2 in June. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Wildlife officials have disposed of several thousand turtles recently confiscated by customs officers, saying they are listed as an invasive alien species (IAS) in Malaysia.

Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hassan said the department had received the baby red-eared slider turtles although he disputed reports that 5,255 of them had been confiscated. He told FMT that only 2,800 had been seized in the haul said to be worth RM52,550.

Red-eared sliders are popularly kept as pets. The turtles in question were seized from the luggage of two Indian nationals arrested at klia2 on June 20.

Kadir said Perhilitan had “put the turtles to sleep” at the National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Perak, adding that around 200 had already died due to poor health by the time they reached the department.

“As the red-eared slider is listed as an IAS in Malaysia and the majority of the world, Perhilitan will not release the species into the wild,” he told FMT.

“There is no conservation value for this species because it will damage our ecosystem.”

He added that according to protocol, the department had first reached out to China, the departure point of the Indian nationals, to see if it wanted to take back the animals. Upon receiving no reply, he said, Perhilitan disposed of the turtles, also according to procedure.

He also said Perhilitan had disposed of the animals as it would be too expensive for the department to take care of them.

IAS include plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health.

Kadir said Perhilitan regularly conducts public awareness programmes to discourage people from acquiring red-eared sliders due to their IAS status.

He also said the department is aware of Malaysia’s status as a major transit point for wildlife smugglers.

“We consistently put tremendous effort into curbing and handling cases involving trans-boundary wildlife crimes,” he said.

This includes working with customs as well as international networks to tackle the illegal trade of wildlife contraband.