Thailand’s ‘piggy bank’ turtle in rehab after 5kg of coins were removed

The turtle had lived for two decades in a small public park in Chonburi province, during which time she swallowed 915 of the coins that visitors used to toss into her pond for good luck.

Veterinarian Nantarika Chansue, right, and her staff put the sea turtle named Omsin into a tank at the Chulalongkorn aquatic research centre in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after the reptile had 915 coins removed from its digestive tract. Roberto Schmidt / AFP
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Bangkok // A sea turtle that swallowed nearly 1,000 coins began swimming lessons on Monday as she embarked on a rehabilitation programme following the removal of the treasure trove by Thai surgeons.

The 25-year-old turtle named Omsin, Thai for "piggy bank", underwent a seven-hour operation in Bangkok last week to remove five kilograms of coins from her digestive tract.

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 said as her patient splashed around.

“Look at her now, she’s fully using all the limbs very effectively.”

Omsin is seen next to tray of coins which were removed from its stomach. EPA

The turtle had lived for two decades in a small public park in Chonburi province, during which time she swallowed 915 of the coins that visitors used to toss into her pond for good luck.

Ms Nantarika said the worldwide coverage given to Omsin’s plight had made 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.”

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

First they will teach her how to swim and then how to dive, which 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 Omsin would know how to swim in the sea, Ms Nantarika said: “Of course. It’s like us being in prison for 20 years, you know, we still know how to live our lives. So I believe that the best way is to let her go.”

The coins after the surgery at Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary faculty in Bangkok. AP Photo

* Agence France-Presse