Meats that prolong life among the BaTonga…fact or fiction?


MANY are the types of meats eaten by mankind and for various reasons.
The sources of these meats are as many as the communities that consume them.
The sources of meat range from large animals such as elephants to bullfrogs, snakes and dogs.
These meats have been claimed to have therapeutic value, healing various ailments and vitalising body.
For the BaTonga, rare frogs, snakes and tortoises are not only a delicacy but have healing qualities.
For instance, tortoise meat is believed to prolong life.
The BaTonga’s delicacies include pangolins, pythons, bullfrogs and rare reptiles which the elders say make them strong.
The tortoises are usually eaten by the elderly matriarchs, chiefs and other old men in the community.
The meat of the tortoise is believed to increase one’s life span; this is because some species of the animal can live up to 150 years.
It is common in rural Binga to see 100 year-old men and women still going strong and hardly visiting the hospital.
My late father lived up to 112 years and was a keen consumer of tortoise, bull frog meat and other rare insects.
My father claimed the meat of these animals cured diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Some of the tortoises are kept for their eggs.
Eggs of the tortoises are mixed with the animal’s heart, boiled and eaten as an evening or afternoon snack by the elderly BaTonga.
In most cases, the shell of the tortoise is cut into small pieces and used as luck charms or they are simply tied on the waist of newly born babies to ward off bad luck as well as protect the babies from evil.
The shells are also used to make bangles and other adornments for women and girls.
Complementary to tortoise meat are small snakes and frogs found in muddy ponds, these are hunted down and once caught, the head is removed and thrown back in the mud, the snakes are dipped in boiling water to remove the skin, then dried, fried or roasted on hot coals and eaten, the same goes for bullfrogs.
According to scientists, of the 40 or so known species of the land tortoise, more than 15 find home in Zimbabwe, making it the most tortoise-diverse country globally.
The northern and southern provinces are particularly blessed with more than eight species, including one of the rarest, the geometric, and one of the most abundant – the angulate.
The angulate tortoise (chersina angualata) is the most common.
It is a generalist feeder and is adapted to a much greater diversity of habitats.
Its geographic distribution stretches in a band along northern and southern parts of the country with isolated populations in rural and urban areas where they are facing potential extinction.
The angulate reproduces in most months of the year; it is the only species outside the tropics that is known to reproduce throughout the year.
It is also a member of a small group of southern African tortoises that lays only one egg at a time — the only group in the world known to do so.
This reproductive strategy has its advantages.
Multiple one-egg clutches lessen the impacts of predation, as only one egg is lost when hunters find its nest, instead of an entire year’s production.
Perhaps more importantly, by laying one large egg at a time, rather than many small eggs, an angulate tortoise gives her offspring a head start.
Angulate tortoise males are highly aggressive and are almost always fighting with one another for dominance or chasing after potential partners.
This aggressive behaviour is also favoured by the BaTonga hunters and young men as they believe the meat of the tortoise gives them the strength to fight and face their enemies as well as being amorous.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here