KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is going on full force to catch tourists and tour operators who are engaged in irresponsible wildlife viewing and handling.
This is following a picture of a child riding a sea turtle, believed to be somewhere in Sabah, which had gone viral yesterday and sparked outrage among Netizens.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew, who is also a minister in charge of tourism, said she had instructed the Sabah Wildlife Department to conduct full investigation on the matter, stressing that it was unacceptable tourism behaviour.
“Sabah is a land of interest and beautiful places, so we welcome tourist to come and we also expect them to respect our laws as well as by-laws. One of them is our (law on) protected wildlife species and turtle is a fully protected species.
“To catch a turtle and put it on a boat for a child to sit on it is unacceptable. I believe the child’s parents are not aware (of the law) or maybe they deliberately doing it but the boat man as well as tour operator should be aware of this,” she said.
Liew said the behaviour, if it did take place in Sabah, was a clear violation of the tourism regulation, stressing that wildlife animals are to be respected by the tourists and locals.
The picture, which was taken in what appeared to be a tourist boat, showed the child, wearing a life-jacket, sitting on top of the protected species while being surrounded by several people, believed to be tourists.
It went viral on Facebook and was also circulated through WhatsApp. However, it could not be ascertained when or where the incident took place.
Meanwhile, on another tourism matter, Liew advised the people to lodge an official complain to the Ministry should they have any concern or dissatisfaction over a particular tourism product.
She was referring to the grouses by Netizens over a new tourism product in Bukit Kokol, Manggatal, which has come under fire on its Facebook page since Friday.
Among the dissatisfaction highlighted by the Netizens are the operator’s high entrance fee, safety issue, and poor public relation.
“I am actually not aware of this (complain) until today. There has been no official complain made to the ministry but if it is a private run, I’m not sure how much the ministry can interfere unless the operator breaks rule.
“The people can highlight the matter to the elected representative or Inanam People Development Leader Office, so they can look into it. Whether (the operator) is charging high fee or not, it is up to them and you decide whether to go or not,” she said.