Coin-eating turtle survives surgery

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A 25-year-old turtle that swallowed nearly 1,000 coins is now short on cash, but otherwise healthier and happier after successful surgery to remove the currency.

Chulalongkorn University veterinarians Rungroj Thanawongnuwed and Nantarika Chanchue performed the operation on “Oamsin” (piggy bank) March 6, spending four hours removing 915 coins and gravel out of its belly.

A team of Chulalongkorn University veterinarians prepares to begin an operation to remove 915 coins from Oamsin the turtle’s belly.
A team of Chulalongkorn University veterinarians prepares to begin an operation to remove 915 coins from Oamsin the turtle’s belly.

Doctors said that while the surgery to remove the five kilograms of coinage was successful, the turtle isn’t out of deep water yet. There is an acidic buildup in the reptile’s liver and the 9,200-cu.-centimeter block of coins had compressed one of its lungs.

The vets estimated the animal would need 6-12 months to recover.

Nantarika said Oamsin was rescued from an abandoned pond in Sriracha last June and, at the time, was thought to have partial paralysis, as it seemed to be sick and swam titled to the left without using its fin.

A computerized tomography scan found the ingested coins after the turtle passed one through its bowels this year.

Rear Adm. Eakaraj Phomlumpak, head of the Air and Coastal Defense Command, which runs the Sea Turtle Conservation Center, blamed people who threw coins into turtle ponds thinking it was good luck. The animals eat them causing health ailments and death.