Zanzibar:Eight Children Die After Consuming Turtle Meat

March 26, 2024

Nine people, including eight children and one adult, tragically lost their lives on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago after consuming sea turtle meat, authorities revealed on Saturday. Additionally, 78 individuals were hospitalized due to the incident. The consumption of sea turtle meat, considered a delicacy by locals despite its associated risks, led to chelonitoxism, a form of food poisoning.

Dr. Haji Bakari, the medical officer for the Mkoani District, disclosed that the adult who passed away on Friday was the mother of one of the deceased children. The consumption occurred on Tuesday, with laboratory tests confirming that all victims had ingested sea turtle meat.

A disaster management team, headed by Hamza Hassan Juma, was dispatched by authorities in Zanzibar to address the situation. Juma emphasized the importance of refraining from consuming sea turtles to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.

This incident echoes a similar event in November 2021, wherein seven individuals, including a 3-year-old child, perished on Pemba Island after consuming turtle meat, resulting in three hospitalizations.

The specific species of sea turtle consumed in Zanzibar, which contributed to these deaths, remains undisclosed.

Beyond the human consumption of sea turtles, various climatological and environmental factors threaten the survival of these creatures, many of which are listed as endangered. Notably, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, classified as the world’s most critically endangered sea turtle species, faces challenges exacerbated by warming waters off the northeast U.S. coast.

The warming waters have disrupted the migratory patterns of Kemp’s Ridley turtles, causing them to remain in Massachusetts waters later into the autumn season than usual. Consequently, since the 1970s, there has been a significant increase in the number of Kemp’s Ridley turtles washing ashore on Massachusetts beaches in a hypothermic state, a phenomenon referred to as “cold-stunning.” Last year, a biologist involved in rescue efforts reported to CBS News that the number of cold-stunned turtles washing ashore had surged to over 700 annually.

By Omar Hemed

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