It’s a popular tradition in Thailand to throw coins into a turtle pond for good fortune. Unfortunately, one sea turtle, named Omsin – Thai for "piggy bank" – mistook these good-luck gestures as mealtime morsels and has spent the past few years chomping down hundreds of these coins.
In a world-first surgery, veterinarians from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok removed a total of 915 coins and two fish hooks from the belly of the 25-year-old green sea turtle during a seven-hour operation on Monday, Associated Press reports. The mass of metal discovered weighed 5 kilograms (11 pounds), while the turtle itself only weighs 59 kilograms (130 pounds).
"The coins came from many countries, mainly from Asia," chief veterinarian Nuntarika Chansue told reporters after the operation, according to German Press Agency DPA.
Omsin’s home was an indoor pond in Sri Racha district (as in, home of Sriracha chili sauce) about 120 kilometers (74 miles) southeast of Bangkok. Omsin was sent to the nearby Thai navy's Sea Turtle Conservation Center, along with the 25 other resident sea turtles, after their pond was undergoing a renovation. After experts noticed it was struggling to swim and not using its left leg, the turtle underwent a series of CT scans and X-Rays, and the unusual cause of the problem became quickly apparent.
"At first I thought the turtle might have been paralyzed. But an X-ray and a CT scan revealed a massive chunk of objects," Chansue said. It was later found the weight of the coins had even cracked the turtle's shell.
Chansue also posted images of the procedure on her Facebook page (below), stating: “I hope this has taught us not to throw coins into any pond with animals in!”
Following its big operation, the turtle has been placed on a two-week liquid diet and is recovering quickly. However, there are no plans yet to install a “don’t throw coins” sign at the pond.