Flipping happy: Coin swallowing Thai turtle on the mend

PHOTO: AFP

Bangkok - A sea turtle dubbed 'Piggy Bank' for swallowing nearly 1,000 coins took swimming lessons Monday as she embarked on a rehabilitation programme following the removal of the treasure trove by Thai surgeons.

The hapless reptile underwent a seven hour operation in Bangkok last week to remove five kilogrammes of coins from her digestive tract - good luck pennies thrown into the pool she swam in.

The story of her plight and successful operation went viral, with headlines around the world.

On Monday the 25-year-old turtle, called 'Omsin' (Piggy Bank), paddled around a small pool with relative ease.

Nantarika Chansue, a vet in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, said she was overjoyed by just how much movement Omsin had gained in her flippers since the operation.

"Before this she didn't use her left side at all, because every time she moved it probably made it painful," she told AFP, as her patient splashed around.

"Look at her now, she's fully using all the limbs very effectively." The troubled reptile lived for two decades in a small public park in Chonburi Province.

Visitors tossed coins into her pond seeking to 'make merit' or good luck.

915 'good luck' coins removed from sea turtle

  • A sea turtle dubbed 'Piggy Bank' for swallowing nearly 1,000 coins took swimming lessons
  • as she embarked on a rehabilitation programme following the removal of the treasure trove by Thai surgeons.
  • Nantarika Chansue, a vet in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, said she was overjoyed by just how much movement Omsin had gained in her flippers since the operation.
  • Chulalongkorn vets say they hope Omsin will one day be able to return to the sea given she could easily live for another 60 years.
  • First they will teach her how to swim and then how to dive - a task that requires her to build up lung strength. Then they will take her for swims in the ocean using a specially designed " turtle-leash" that allows researchers to reel her back in.
  • Thai veterinarians removed 915 coins from a 25-year-old sea turtle which had been swallowing items thrown into her pool for good luck, eventually limiting her ability to swim.
  • The coins and other objects removed from the turtle named Omsin - piggy bank in Thai - weighed 5kg. The turtle itself weighed 59kg.
  • The green sea turtle, living at a conservation centre in Sriracha, Chonburi, east of the Thai capital of Bangkok, had been finding it hard to swim normally because of the weight.
  • The vets said they believed the seven-hour-long operation was the world's first such surgery.
  • "We think it will take about a month to ensure she will fully recover," said Nantarika Chansue, of Chulalongkorn University's veterinary science faculty, adding that the turtle would need six more months of physical therapy.
  • There was no immediate estimate of the value of the coins, some of them foreign and many corroded.

Nantarika said the international media reports have had the added bonus of making Thais think twice about throwing coins into ponds where animals live.

"Because of this, all the ponds that I know they are cleaning up their ponds, pulling out all the coins, putting signs up that there is no throwing coins," she said.

Chulalongkorn vets say they hope Omsin will one day be able to return to the sea given she could easily live for another 60 years.

First they will teach her how to swim and then how to dive - a task that requires her to build up lung strength.

Then they will take her for swims in the ocean using a specially designed " turtle-leash" that allows researchers to reel her back in.

Asked whether she will know how to swim in the deep blue, Nantarika replied: "Of course. It's like us being in prison for twenty years, you know, we still know how to live our lives, so I believe that the best way is to let her go."

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