9 Dead, 78 Hospitalised After Consuming Sea Turtle Meat on Zanzibar Island

Hawksbill turtle
Hawksbill turtle By Profmauri - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22068648

Eight children and an adult have died after eating sea turtle meat on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, and 78 other people have been taken to hospital, authorities said on Saturday.

Sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy in Zanzibar but it periodically results in deaths from chelonitoxism, a type of food poisoning, as reported by The Associated Press.

According to the National Capital Poison Center, Chelonitoxism is a rare and potentially life-threatening disease that occurs due to consumption of contaminated sea turtle meat. There is no known antidote for chelonitoxism, but the disease can be prevented by avoiding the consumption of raw or cooked sea turtles.

The adult who died late on Friday was the mother of one of the children who succumbed earlier, said the Mkoani district medical officer, Dr Haji Bakari. He said the turtle meat was consumed on Tuesday.

Bakari told the Associated Press that laboratory tests had confirmed all the victims had eaten sea turtle meat.

Authorities in Zanzibar, which is a semi-autonomous region of the east African nation of Tanzania, sent a disaster management team that urged people to avoid consuming sea turtles.

In November 2021, seven people, including a three-year-old, died on Pemba after eating turtle meat and three others were hospitalised.