The Star/ Asia News Network
In a state where the sighting of crocodiles at the rivers is considered normal, the discovery of the reptiles being smuggled in has left the authorities stumped.
This is after the Sabah Wildlife Department seized 220 crocodiles at a swamp in Kampung Pasir Putih, Tawau, on Saturday.
The reptiles, in various sizes and move freely in the swamp, are believed had been smuggled in from neighbouring Kalimantan.
However, five of them had died and were kept in a gunnysack when the department together with the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) arrived.
“This is the first time we came across people smuggling crocodiles from outside the state.“We are investigating if it was for local crocodile farms. I believe many are willing to buy,” he said, adding that a full investigation was underway.
Tuuga said early last year, they arrested a woman and found 630 crocodiles measuring between two and six feet inside 18 polystyrene boxes in the cargo compartment of a bus heading for Kota Kinabalu from Lahad Datu.
It was believed that the crocodiles were sourced locally.
Tuuga said when they eventually auctioned off the reptiles, there were not many bidders and it was sold at RM40,000.
“At that time we got less than RM1,000 each,” he said, adding that they had yet to ascertain the value of the latest seizure.
Tawau Wildlife Department officer Sailun Aris said they arrested two Malaysians and two Indonesians aged between 55 and 61 shortly after the reptiles were released in the swamp at about 10.30am.
“The success was due to the intelligence gathered and provided by Esscom,” he said.
Under Schedule 2 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, it is illegal to hunt, collect the eggs or remove the crocodiles from the wild under any circumstance.