Sea turtle meat consumption leads to multiple deaths, hospitalizations in Zanzibar

A green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) was seen on the beach in Galle, Sri Lanka, on November 11, 2023. (Photo by Thilina Kaluthotage/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Several people either died or were sickened after eating sea turtle meat on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, authorities said over the weekend. 

Eight children and an adult died, and 78 other people were hospitalized. 

Zanzibar's people consider sea turtle meat to be a delicacy. It's believed the deaths resulted from chelonitoxism, a type of food poisoning.

The adult who died late 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.

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Authorities in Zanzibar, which is a semi-autonomous region of the East African nation of Tanzania, sent a disaster management team led by Hamza Hassan Juma, who urged people to avoid consuming sea turtles.

In November 2021, seven people, including a 3-year-old, died on Pemba after eating turtle meat while three others were hospitalized.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.