updated 11/4/2008 9:22:56 PM ET 2008-11-05T02:22:56

Malaysian marine police say they have seized 10,000 endangered turtle eggs believed to be from the Philippines.

Muhammad Sallam Spawi, an officer in Sabah state on Borneo island, says police surprised four smugglers as they were unloading bags of eggs Sunday.

The men managed to flee in their boat but left behind 20 sacks of eggs.

Still, he said Tuesday the seizure was "the biggest ever" in Sabah.

Image: Turtle eggs
-  /  AFP-Getty Images
Turtle eggs confiscated from smugglers are shown in Sabah, Malaysia, on Tuesday.
He said the men were speaking Tagalog, which is spoken in the Philippines.

Abdul Karim Dakog, an officer with the state wildlife department, says the department hopes the eggs, from the endangered green and Hawksbill turtles, may still hatch in a conservation area.

Trade in turtle eggs is illegal in Malaysia but the eggs remain popular in local food markets. They cost about 80 cents each.

In Malaysia, turtle eggs are often eaten raw and are said to boost male virility.

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