Are there any poisonous turtles?
- Asked by Vallerie Ng
Firstly, we need to be clear about what “poisonous” means as compared to the term “venomous.”
Poisonous refers to something that is consumed or absorbed through the skin that will make one sick, or at worse, die from it.
Venomous is used to describe an animal that has a toxin which can be injected directly into the bloodstream, causing you to get sick or worse. There are no known venomous turtles.
There have been reported cases of mortality from consumption of hawksbill turtle meat. This happened in the South Pacific Island of Tonga where 18 people became sick from eating hawksbill meat. Two of them subsequently died. Islanders often test hawksbill turtle meat for poison by throwing the turtle’s liver to crows. If the birds reject the liver, the hawksbill is toxic.
When turtles are kept in captivity, the conditions could sometimes be unhygienic as they are practically walking or swimming around in their own toilet. The water is likely to contain various bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, etc. Hence it is always advisable to wash/sanitize your hands after handling the turtles.
This post is part of Turtle Blogathon 2009, where we stayed up for 24-straight-hours to blog about turtles. Posts written during the Turtle Blogathon are filed in the Turtle Blogathon 2009 category.