Sea turtle meat leaves 9 dead, 78 hospitalized after eating on Pemba Island

Nine people including 8 children are dead and at least 78 others have been hospitalized after eating sea turtle meat on an East African island, multiple media outlets are reporting.

According to the National Institutes of Health website, eating marine turtles can cause chelonitoxism, a rare and potentially deadly type of food poisoning.

The deaths took place on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, African officials confirmed to CGTN-TV and The Associated Press. The area is an independent region of the country of Tanzania.

The exact species of sea turtle consumed was not immediately known Wednesday nor was the date of the first reported hospitalization or death.

This photo shows a green sea turtle swimming off the coast of Hawaii.

Sea turtle meat ‘considered a delicacy’ in Zanzibar

Mkoani District medical officer Haji Bakari said the deaths stemmed from people consuming turtle meat, which the AP reported is “considered a delicacy in Zanzibar.”

One adult who died on Friday was the mother of one of the children who died, Bakari told the AP. He said the meat was ingested on March 5.

USA TODAY has reached out to Zanzibar officials and the Mkoani District.


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Disaster management team warning people not to eat sea turtles

According to information from the Kwanini Foundation, Pemba Island’s population is about 500,000 people.

Zanzibar authorities deployed a disaster management team to the region instructing people to avoid eating sea turtles, according to the AP.

In November 2021, the BBC reported, seven people died and three others were hospitalized on Pemba after eating turtle meat.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on X @nataliealund.

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