The Thai sea turtle that spent years eating coins off the bottom of a wishing pond has undergone a successful surgery.
The 25-year-old, nicknamed Omsin (Thai for “piggy bank”), was found with an engorged stomach full of heavy coins, and she made headlines as a warning to people casting coins into ponds for good luck.
The coins, found in her stomach and intestines, were pressing on her other organs, and preventing her from diving, breathing or eating properly.
Vets operated on Omsin on Monday, removing removed some 915 coins weighing nearly 5 kg, according to Nantarika Chansue, an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University who has been spearheading the turtle’s recovery.
Nantarika told Khaosod that they’re glad they found her in time. “If we didn’t operate on her, then she wouldn’t have been able to eat or defecate, and would have soon died,” she said.
It’s likely that the coins had been in Omsin for a long time; many of them had corroded beyond recognition.
They were also in various currencies, indicating that tourists from different countries had tossed their coins in.
During seven-hour surgery, the vets cut a 10cm (4 inch) hole in her ventral shell, and then cut into her stomach to remove the coins, making sure they avoid tearing the delicate lining around the turtle’s abdomen.
Omsin will return to the ocean when it is completely recovered. She is currently recuperating in intensive care, and would require physical therapy.
Rungrote Thanawongnuwet, head of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary science program, said people should stop throwing coins into ponds that may be inhabited by animals.
“People believe that throwing coins to these turtles will result in their longevity, so people put them in ponds and throw coins and banknotes at them, causing turtles to die before their natural lifespan,” he added.
Nantarika told Khaosod that she’s also found coins in more than 20 fish, crocodiles, hippopotamuses and rays.
She said: “It’s torture for animals after they eat the coins people throw into ponds … Please put money into donation boxes instead.”