Sea turtle meat consumption leads to tragic deaths in Zanzibar

Galle, Sri Lanka – A green sea turtle was spotted on the beach in Galle, Sri Lanka, on November 11, 2023. The beauty of this majestic creature soon turned into tragedy on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, where several individuals fell ill or lost their lives after consuming sea turtle meat.

Authorities in Zanzibar reported that eight children and one adult lost their lives, while 78 others were hospitalized after consuming sea turtle meat, considered a delicacy by locals. It is believed that chelonitoxism, a form of food poisoning, was the cause of these tragic events.

Dr. Haji Bakari, the medical officer of Mkoani District, shared that the adult who passed away was the mother of one of the deceased children. The consumption of turtle meat took place on a Tuesday, with devastating consequences unfolding in the following days.

Laboratory tests confirmed that all victims had ingested sea turtle meat, solidifying the link between the consumption of this delicacy and the tragic outcomes. Authorities in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, swiftly responded by dispatching a disaster management team led by Hamza Hassan Juma, urging the public to refrain from consuming sea turtles.

This isn’t the first time such a tragedy has struck Pemba Island. In November 2021, seven individuals, including a young child, lost their lives due to consuming turtle meat, with three others being hospitalized. Such incidents underscore the risks associated with consuming marine wildlife, highlighting the importance of food safety measures to prevent similar tragedies in the future.