Turtle Dies After Eating 11 Pounds of Coins
People often throw coins into ponds to wish for luck, but for a green sea turtle that was living in a park pond along the coast of eastern Thailand, good luck was not what she received.
After consuming 915 coins, amounting to 11 pounds, the 25-year-old female turtle died.
Nicknamed Omsin, meaning "piggy bank," the turtle was first rescued by a member of the Thai navy last week, who saw her showing signs of distress. After being brought to a veterinary clinic, Omsin received a four-hour surgery to remove the coins.
The turtle initially appeared to be doing well, but a second surgery was required a week after the first to repair the animal's damaged intestines.
Roongroje Thanawongnuwech, from Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told the Associated Press that intestinal damage—likely from the coins—was inhibiting protein intake. Nickel toxicity 200 times the safe dose for the species also appeared to have damaged her immune system.
Dr. Nantarika Chansue was the veterinarian who led the effort to remove the coins from the turtle's stomach. In a post on her Facebook page she wrote, "Thank you for being my friend... We did our best, but it was not good enough."
Chansue's impassioned Facebook post had received forty-four thousand reactions as of Tuesday afternoon from those expressing sadness and heartbreak over the turtle's death.
Omsin is thought to have first eaten the coins while at Koh Loy Park in Thailand's Sri Racha district in Chon Buri. She was then sent to the Sattahip Turtle Conservation Center in Thailand, after a bridge to Koh Loy was closed for maintenance.
The turtle's carcass will be returned to the conservation center to be stuffed and used for educational purposes.
In an interview with the Bangkok Post, Chansue said, "I want the case of [Omsin] to be an example for people in general who may wrongly believe that throwing coins into ponds where there are live animals brings good fortune. It only hurts the animals."
Sea turtles are known to ingest debris and foreign objects that resemble prey. A study of sea turtles off the coast of Australia found they frequently ingested clear plastic because it resembles jellyfish. While older green sea turtles eat only plants, juveniles have a diet that includes seagrass and crustaceans.
Green sea turtles, who can live up to 100 years, are an endangered species, and some of their biggest threats are created by humans. Intentionally harvesting eggs from nesting sites remains a big problem and many face habitat loss. It's estimated that thousands are killed every year for their parts, which are consumed and used in everything from medicine to religious ceremonies.
CITES, a voluntary multi-lateral agreement among 125 countries to regulate trade that could contribute to the decline of threatened species, stipulates protections for sea turtles. Because the turtles are highly migratory, traveling over a thousand miles to lay eggs, and exist everywhere from the Atlantic to the Pacific, efforts to ensure their protection are often a matter of diplomacy.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protect green sea turtles in U.S. waters under the Endangered Species Act.