Tossing coins into a fountain to bring good luck is a popular superstition, but the practice brought misery to a sea turtle in Thailand from which vets have removed 915 coins.
Vets in Bangkok operated on Monday on the 25-year-old female green sea turtle nicknamed Bank, whose indigestible diet was the result of 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. But the coins eventually formed a 5kg ball in Bank’s stomach.The weight cracked her ventral shell, causing a life-threatening infection.
Five surgeons from Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary faculty removed the coins over four hours while Bank was anesthetised. The ball was too big to take out through a 10cm incision, so it had to be removed a few coins at a time. Many of them had corroded or partially dissolved.
“The result is satisfactory. Now it’s up to Bank how much she can recover,” said Pasakorn Briksawan of the surgical team. The turtle, recovering in the university’s animal hospital, will be on a liquid diet for the next two weeks. Bank was brought to the vets by the navy, which found her ailing in her seaside hometown.
It was only after a 3D scan that vets discovered the problem. As well as the coins they found two fish hooks, which were also removed. 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,” said Nantarika Chansue, head of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary medical aquatic animal research centre.
Thai media began publicising the turtle’s tale last month after she was found, and the public donated about 15,000 baht (£350) for her surgery. Typically, a green sea turtle has a lifespan of about 80 years, said Roongroje Thanawongnuwech, dean of the university’s veterinary faculty. It is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.