Veterinary surgeons in Bangkok, Thailand, removed 925 coins from the stomach of a green sea turtle on Monday after it was discovered that the 25-year-old resident of a filthy man-made pond had been ingesting coins thrown into the waters by tourists seeking good fortune and longevity.
Via the Associated Press:
The loose change eventually formed a heavy ball in her stomach weighing 5 kilograms (11 pounds). The weight cracked the turtle’s ventral shell, causing a life-threatening infection.
Five surgeons from Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary faculty patiently removed the coins over four hours while “Bank” was under general anesthesia. The stash was too big to take out through the 10-cm (4-inch) incision they had made, so it had to be removed a few coins at a time. Many of them had corroded or partially dissolved.
Bank was brought to veterinarians by members of the navy who found her in agony at the abandoned park in Thailand’s Chonburi province. Her cracked shell was swollen and infected and a severe lung infection prevented her from diving. She was barely able to breathe when she was rescued. Vets said she probably would not have survived much longer without medical intervention.
Veterinarians initially thought she had a tumor, but were shocked to discover that she had a stomach full of coins. CT scans revealed a huge ball of metal measuring 20 x 23 x 20 cm. inside the turtle’s stomach.
Associate Professor Nantarika Chansue at Chulalongkorn University said, “Unfortunately the turtle was raised in a public enclosure where people like to throw in coins.” He said her sickness was “very severe.”
“I felt angry that humans, whether or not they meant to do it or if they did it without thinking, had caused harm to this turtle,” said Chansue, who is head of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary medical aquatic animal research center.
Chansue implored people to stop imperiling wildlife. “Please do not throw coins into ponds with animals in. It is a serious sin and very dangerous for the marine life.”
For now, Bank is recovering from surgery. “The result is satisfactory. Now it’s up to Bank how much she can recover,” said Pasakorn Briksawan, a member of the surgical team. She will be on a liquid diet for the next two weeks while she heals from the trauma of her injuries and the surgery.
After the media began publicizing the turtle’s plight, donations began to come in to help pay for her veterinary bills. So far 15,000 baht ($428) has been raised by the public.
No word yet on whether Bank will be relocated to a new home after she recovers. The lifespan for a green sea turtle is 80 years, so she’s still a relatively young turtle. With proper nutrition and care, animals in captivity often far exceed their lifespan in the wild. Let’s hope this is the case for Bank. The poor turtle has been through a lot of abuse and no one wants to see her sent back to a filthy pool with people flinging coins at her all day.