Sea Turtle Survives Having a Mass of 915 Coins in Its Stomach

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-14 03:03

A green sea turtle in Thailand that had swallowed 915 coins is now recovering from invasive but life-saving surgery.

The locals gave her the pet name Om Sin, which translates to “piggy bank”.

The 25-year-old female turtle had swallowed so many coins because tourists and locals alike threw coins into her pond. There is a prevalent superstition in Thailand that giving coins to a turtle leads to good luck and a long life.

Nantarika Chansue, one of the veterinarians who rescued Om Sin, disagrees with this tradition. Giving coins to sea turtles isn't a blessing, at least not for the sea turtle. People aren't scoring cosmic brownie points, either. “Instead of getting merit, you actually commit a sin,” says Chansue.

Coins are Good Luck, but Not for a Sea Turtle

Om Sin had swallowed so many coins that surgery became necessary. The coins, which had lodged themselves in her stomach and intestines, would have been fatally harmful. Om Sin would not have been able to eat or defecate, which could have soon led to death. The mass of coins had also caused a crack in Om Sin's ventral shell, which then became infected. The infection could have become fatal if it had not been dealt with.

By the time veterinarians got to her, Om Sin's stomach was bulging and she was barely able to swim.

A team of veterinarians operated on the sea turtle for several hours on March 6. They put her under anesthesia and had to cut into her shell to get to her stomach. Once the operation was over, they had removed a five-kilogram mass of 915 coins. Some of the coins had already corroded inside the turtle's stomach. This may have caused high levels of nickel in Om Sin's blood.

While there are still some coins left inside Om Sin's stomach, veterinarians are going to see if she can pass them naturally.

Human Impact

Om Sin is now recovering at an animal hospital in Chulalongkorn University. Vets put her on a liquid diet, which has to last for two weeks after the surgery. Her minders have also allowed her to swim in a controlled environment, which she has taken to quite well. It seems that Om Sin is well on her way towards complete recovery.

Om Sin's rescuers plan to release her back into the sea after she recovers.

While the people who threw the coins into Om Sin's enclosure probably meant no harm, it is an example of how thoughtless human acts have impacted Om Sin's species. Green sea turtles can live up to 80 years on average, but they are endangered and getting closer to extinction. Human acts are top causes of the green sea turtle's endangerment.

Green sea turtle eggs get harvested by humans for illegal trade. Humans also cause the degradation of turtle habitats. The careless use and storage of fishing gear have also contributed to turtles getting trapped and killed.

Hopefully, something good will come out of Om Sin's predicament. Maybe, with her story, we will be more conscientious about how human actions impact the green sea turtle population.

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