(File pix) An adult sea turtle swimming with hatchlings in a ‘turtle conservation sanctuary pool’ in Gem Island Resort & Spa at Pulau Gemia near Pulau Kapas, Marang. Pix courtesy of NST reader

KUALA TERENGGANU: The State Fisheries Department is investigating a resort owner who allegedly kept an albino green turtle and hundreds of hatchlings at his premises in Marang.

The turtle and hatchlings were allegedly kept at the “Turtle Conservation Santuary Pool” in Gem Island Resort & Spa at Pulau Gemia near Pulau Kapas here.

State Fisheries Department director Zawawi Ali said five enforcement officers inspected the resort yesterday and found 300 hatchlings inside the pool.

“The resort manager, who is in his 30s, claimed he released the adult turtle, which he raised for 10 years.

“The animal was released on Sept 9 after a video on the turtle devouring hatchlings went viral on the Internet yesterday.

“Checks showed that the resort owner has a valid licence for a hatchery to incubate turtle eggs and release the hatchlings in 2006, but he continued doing so without renewing the licence after it had expired,” he said when contacted today.

Zawawi said his officers will finalise the investigation papers within a week before handing them to the Deputy Public Prosecutor for further action.

“After that, we may order the resort operator to close down the so-called conservation sanctuary pool and seize all the baby turtles.

“We will release some of the turtles back to the sea, and the rest will be relocated to our observation centre in Rantau Abang,” he added.

He said the case is being investigated under the State Turtle Enactment 1950 for illegally harbouring the preserved animal.

If convicted, the offender could face a fine of RM3,000 or a year’s imprisonment, or both.

Yesterday, a 11-second video depicting a turtle devouring hatchlings in a pool went viral.

The story on the turtle was viewed by thousands of New Straits Times readers after it was uploaded at 1pm.

The Netizen who uploaded the video on his Facebook account has been identified as Jihia Koh.

Koh claimed he saw the turtle eating a hatchling, and that the resort’s staff brushed off the incident, saying it was “normal” as there was “not enough food”.

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