Authorities launch probe of video of turtle harassment

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Authorities launch probe of video of turtle harassment

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The Pingtung County Environmental Protection Bureau earlier this week launched an investigation of several tourists who last week allegedly harassed wild sea turtles when diving and uploaded a video of the incident to YouTube, sparking public outrage.

The five-minute video purportedly shot in waters near Pingtung’s Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球) drew widespread condemnation after it was reposted on a scuba diving community page on Facebook.

Netizens said the video is a virtual compilation of what divers should not do when interacting with marine wildlife.

The video shows the tourists fondling sea turtles on the head at least five times, and one tourist is seen grabbing a turtle by the shell to prevent it from escaping, the bureau said.

“This behavior is outrageous,” the bureau said.

The Eighth Division of the National Police Agency’s Seventh Special Police Corps has been asked to conduct a criminal investigation, because the actions depicted in the video contravened the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), the bureau said.

Police were attempting to identify the culprits, who could receive a fine of NT$60,000 to NT$300,000 or less than one year in prison, it added.

Local dive instructors said that the sea turtles near the island are more friendly to humans, and tourists often interact with them inappropriately by trying to touch them.

The island’s dive shop operators try to prevent such incidents by instructing their clients to maintain their distance from wildlife and avoid physical contact, which has successfully reduced the number of incidents, they said.

“You do not see criminals film their crime and set it to music,” one netizen said.

“Some people need punishment to be kept in line,” another netizen said.

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