In Singapore, the consumption of turtle meat and eggs is highly regulated. This doesn’t stop people from trying to skirt the system, of course. In 2018, Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority staff in Singapore confiscated packets of innocuous-looking snacks which turned out to have turtle eggs hidden within. Meanwhile, turtle eggs were being openly sold online on Shopee Malaysia, which promptly shut it down after the listing went viral.
Aside from the ecological impact of disrupting the life cycle of an endangered animal, consuming food containing turtle parts can actually be quite dangerous.
Due to the turtle’s longevity, heavy metals and other chemicals like organochlorines reach extremely high levels in their system over time. When humans eat turtle products, these heavy metals and organochlorines can cause severe adverse health effects, which can ultimately lead to death.
The popularity of turtle products has led Dr. Muhummad Hafiz Borkhanuudin, who is a marine biologist in Terengganu, Malaysia to warn about the dangers of metallic poisoning caused by consumption of turtle products.
In Singapore, the turtle products we get in restaurants are sourced from turtle farms. There are turtle farms in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China. According to Tridelta Food, Singapore’s only HACCP-certified turtle provider, Singaporeans consume 200 tons of turtle meat a year.
It is worth noting that if you must eat turtle products, then it’s probably safer to consume turtle products farmed in a controlled environment. The turtles ingested by Singaporeans are most likely the Chinese Softshell Turtle, the most commonly farmed turtle in Asia.
Some turtle soup shops, such as Ser Seng Turtle Soup, even go as far as to list the benefits of turtle eggs on their website.
One of the touted benefits is increased virility. Strangely enough, Ser Seng Turtle Soup is not the only ones that think so. In countries as far away as the United States and Panama, turtle eggs are being poached due to the belief in their special properties.
Unfortunately for sea turtles all over the world, most of them are endangered or threatened due to human activity. We owe it to them and to the humans that will walk the earth after us to preserve them and make sure they’ll be around for a long time to come.