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NEWS alert! Conservationists are investigating reports of a turtle being assaulted by a group of young humans while it was foraging along a coral bed in the Pulau Perhentian islands.
An anonymous blacktip reef shark, which witnessed the incident, said the green turtle was about to snap at a jellyfish when a young boy in a white top appeared out of nowhere.
"I saw a flash of white then this turtle starts thrashing about," the shark said.
The youngsters also attempted to outrage the turtle's motility. The mean group even recorded the whole incident and posted the photographs onto Facebook and Twitter. But netizens quickly rallied together to lodge reports.
Authorities said the young boy was the guide who led the attack. He dragged the turtle up to the water's surface to show it off to his group of tourists. At least two from the group were believed to have tried to mount the turtle.
Doctors fear the traumatic experience will push the turtle into depression. It is currently warded at one of Pulau Perhentian's exclusive beaches for observation.
If only turtles could talk. For that matter, if animals could talk what would they say of us humans?
The series of holiday snapshots and video of snorkellers posing with a turtle in the Pulau Perhentian islands is just one of the many examples of how intrusive, insensitive and disrespectful we can be.
It is clearly stated in our laws that no wildlife should be hunted, disturbed, harassed or taken out of its habitat in any national and state park or nature reserve.
The father and son owners of Perhentian Setia Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd were aware that they should have practised a "seeing but no touching" policy. While seemingly apologetic, they justified their actions with claims of a "close bond" to the turtle, which they nicknamed "Pupu", having rescued the reptile from a fisherman's net.
I'm not convinced by this reasoning but the authorities have accepted their apology and sent a warning letter. No doubt the others -- the snorkellers who had gleefully manhandled the turtle -- could plead ignorance in the unlikely event that they should be punished.
But let's be honest now: given the chance, how many of you would have done what they did?
The urge to reach out and touch an animal, whether in the wild or in captivity, is primal. It could be something as simple as putting your fingers out for cleaner shrimps or as idiotic as riding a tiger.
We want to connect with the animals. It's about establishing trust.
Those well-informed "override" this instinct on the basis that it does more harm than good to touch wildlife. The reasons are aplenty: you could injure the animal or yourself, some animals are poisonous, you could affect their behaviour and you could introduce icky human diseases to them.
Now, unless you're a scientist who is studying a species, you should never ever touch a creature in the wild. The law is clear on this. Unfortunately, it isn't so when it comes to animals in captivity.
Ignorant tourists are willing to pay to heed their primal instinct to connect with wild animals. For a fee, anyone can pay to cozy up to an animal. Depending on the amount, you get to pat, ride, bathe and, of course, take pictures with the creatures.
Zoos, the government and some conservationists raise the education and awareness banner believing close encounters will help tourists learn about the vulnerable species. It is also a means to generate income to support the institution.
Often, the popular ones are the large, magnificent beasts which are usually endangered. The tourists convince themselves that these creatures have lost their wild streak, having been tamed or rehabilitated.
But the methods of "taming" the wild animals are questionable at best. Allegations of drugging, starving and beating the animals into submission are rife. Worse are allegations of links to the wildlife trade.
It must be pointed out that not all zoos or wildlife sanctuaries are dodgy. There are reputable outfits which are scrupulous and promote responsible tourism. It means observing from afar, definitely no touching and the animals are treated with respect and love.
These institutions understand that any interaction with animals cannot be forced and it must happen on the animal's terms.
It's really quite simple. It takes trust to form a bond with animals and trust takes time to build. Subjecting any animal to stress just so we can touch and connect with the animal is plainly wrong.