KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has rescued 1,400 tortoises from a local fishing vessel at the waters between Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manukan early this morning.
Six people including the skipper, aged between 23 to 44, who were on the boat have been detained for questioning.
It was believed the tortoises were about to be smuggled to Vietnam to be marketed as exotic dish, said district MMEA director First Admiral Adam Aziz.
"A total of 1,200 tortoises are still alive while the remaining 200 were dead," he said in a press conference here, adding that the animals were kept in boxes.
Adam said four of the men detained did not possess identification documents while two others, including the skipper, are Malaysians.
The value of seizure is estimated at RM42,000 and the case is being investigated under Section 41(4)(B) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 (Amendment 2016) for possessing protected animals.