Dozens Sickened After Eating Sea Turtle Meat on Pemba Island in Zanzibar

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania – A tragic incident unfolded on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, as several individuals fell ill or lost their lives after consuming sea turtle meat, which is considered a delicacy by the local population. The authorities reported that eight children and one adult succumbed to chelonitoxism, a form of food poisoning, while 78 others were hospitalized. The adult victim, who passed away late on a Friday, was the mother of one of the deceased children. It was revealed that the turtle meat was consumed earlier in the week.

Dr. Haji Bakari, the medical officer in the Mkoani District, confirmed that laboratory tests linked the illnesses and deaths to the consumption of sea turtle meat. This tragic incident is not the first of its kind on Pemba Island, as back in November 2021, seven individuals, including a 3-year-old child, suffered a similar fate after eating turtle meat, resulting in fatalities and hospitalizations.

Following this latest incident, a disaster management team was dispatched by authorities in Zanzibar, led by Hamza Hassan Juma, urging the public to refrain from consuming sea turtles. It is notable that the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar is a part of the East African nation of Tanzania, where sea turtle consumption holds cultural significance. The incident serves as a reminder of the risks associated with consuming certain wildlife products, emphasizing the importance of food safety and public health measures.

The tragic consequences of consuming sea turtle meat highlight the dangers of chelonitoxism and the need for increased awareness and vigilance regarding food safety practices. As authorities continue to investigate the incident and provide support to those affected, it serves as a stark reminder of the potential risks associated with consuming certain types of wildlife. The local community’s perception of sea turtle meat as a delicacy must be balanced with the need to prioritize public health and safety.

In light of this devastating incident, efforts to raise awareness about the risks of consuming certain wildlife products and promoting safe and healthy dietary practices become crucial. The tragedy on Pemba Island underscores the importance of robust food safety regulations and public health interventions to prevent similar incidents in the future. As investigations into the incident continue, authorities and health officials must work together to ensure the well-being and safety of the local population, emphasizing the importance of informed dietary choices and sustainable food practices.