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cracked shell

Surgeons remove 915 coins swallowed by Thai sea turtle

People had thrown the coins into her pool for good luck.

Thailand Turtle Trouble Sakchai Lalit / AP Sakchai Lalit / AP / AP

TOSSING COINS INTO a fountain for luck is a popular superstition, but a similar belief brought misery to a turtle in Thailand from whom doctors have removed 915 coins.

Veterinarians in Bangkok yesterday operated on the 25-year-old female green sea turtle nicknamed Bank, whose indigestible diet was a result of many tourists seeking good fortune by tossing coins into her pool over many years in the eastern town of Sri Racha.

Many Thais believe that throwing coins on turtles will bring longevity.

Typically, a green sea turtle has a lifespan of around 80 years, Roongroje Thanawongnuwech, dean of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary faculty, said. It is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Thailand Turtle Trouble The coins in a tray after surgery Sakchai Lalit / AP Sakchai Lalit / AP / AP

The loose change eventually formed a heavy ball in her stomach weighing 5kg (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 10cm (four 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.

euronews (in English) / YouTube

“The result is satisfactory. Now it’s up to Bank how much she can recover,” said Pasakorn Briksawan, one of the surgical team. While recovering in Chulalongkorn University’s animal hospital, the turtle will be on a liquid diet for the next two weeks.

Bank was brought to veterinarians by the navy, which found her ailing in her seaside hometown.

Thailand Turtle Trouble Bank Sakchai Lalit / AP Sakchai Lalit / AP / AP

It was only after a detailed 3D scan that veterinarians pinpointed the weighty and unexpected problem. As well as the coins they also found two fish hooks, which were also removed.

Public raised money 

The surgery team leader said that when she discovered the cause of the turtle’s agony she was furious.

“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,” Nantarika Chansue, head of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary medical aquatic animal research centre, said.

Thai media began publicising the turtle’s tale last month after she was found, and in response, some 15,000 baht (about €400) in donations was raised from the public to pay for her surgery.

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Associated Foreign Press
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