Riau Islands Police foiled the illegal sale of turtles at Teluk Mata Ikan Beach, Batam, Riau Islands, a police spokesperson said on Monday.
As many as 148 turtles were allegedly sold to Singapore tourists who wanted to use them for a religious ritual at the local vihara, Riau Islands Police Sr. Comm. Saptono Erlangga told The Jakarta Post.
Erlangga said that each turtle was sold for prices ranging from Rp 1 million (US$71) to Rp 3 million. They included 39 hawksbill sea turtles and 79 green sea turtles, as well as 30 turtles of unknown species that were found dead by the time the police caught the alleged perpetrators.
“The tourists bought the turtles to release them into the sea as part of the ritual,” Erlangga said, adding that the turtles are protected animals.
According to Erlangga, those arrested are to be charged under Law No. 5/1990 on natural resources and ecosystem conservation, which carries a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment upon conviction.
The head of the animal and plants conservation quarantine hall, Decky Hendra Prasetya, said his team already told the vihara keepers to refuse to conduct the turtle ritual.
“We have already told them to stop holding such rituals. If they want to release the turtles into the sea, they have to follow our procedures,” Decky said. (dpk)