Eight children and an adult died after eating sea turtle meat on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago and 78 other people were hospitalized, authorities said Saturday.
Sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy by Zanzibar’s people, even though it periodically results in deaths 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.
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. It was not clear what species of sea turtle was eaten in Zanzibar, linked to the deaths.
In addition to human predation, a range of climatological and other environmental factors have landed most sea turtle species on endangered lists, including the world’s most critically endangered sea turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley.
That species has faced a new challenge caused by the warming waters off the northeast U.S. coast, which has led them to linger longer into the late autumn of Massachusetts when they should have headed south.
Since the 1970s, Kemp’s Ridley turtles have been washing ashore on Massachusetts beaches in a hypothermic state called cold-stunning by the dozens. A biologist working to rescue as many as possible told CBS News last year that those numbers had increased to more than 700 animals every year.

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