Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Malaysia seizes rare turtle eggs

Green turtle
Green turtles are under threat from egg hunters and are also harvested for meat

The authorities in Malaysia say they have seized 10,000 endangered turtle eggs that were being smuggled into the country from the Philippines.

The eggs are considered a delicacy and were destined for local food markets where they can fetch a good price.

Police in the Sabah region of Malaysia say this is their largest ever haul of smuggled turtle eggs.

They say they intercepted four men who were unloading the cargo from a speedboat on a beach.

We are constantly doing raids and apprehending irresponsible traders
Muhammed Sallam Spawi - police official

The smugglers escaped but abandoned 20 sacks of eggs, which police say are from endangered species like the Green and Hawksbill turtles.

Eggs in demand

"Our investigations have revealed that a syndicate obtained the eggs from several islands in the Philippines," said Muhammed Sallam Spawi, a police official in the city of Sandakan.

"There is a huge demand among locals and the eggs are easily available. We are constantly doing raids and apprehending irresponsible traders," he added.

Wildlife officials will now try to incubate the eggs, but those that fail to hatch will have to be destroyed.

The trade in rare turtle eggs is illegal in Malaysia, but many species have been badly hit in recent years by smuggling, fishing and coastal development.

Police say the eggs are still readily available in many markets.

Turtles that make it to adulthood are also prized for their meat and in some cases for their shells which are used to make ornaments.

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