Thai sea turtle that swallowed nearly 1,000 coins on the mend

Nantrika Chansue (right), a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, examines a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she remo
Nantrika Chansue (right), a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, examines a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she removed coins lodged in its belly.PHOTO: AFP
Nantrika Chansue (right), a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, examines a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she remo
Nantrika Chansue (right), a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, examines a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she removed coins lodged in its belly.PHOTO: AFP
Nantrika Chansue (right), a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, examines a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she remo
Nantrika Chansue (right), a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, examines a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she removed coins lodged in its belly.PHOTO: AFP
Nantrika Chansue, a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre handles a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank, at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she removed coins
Nantrika Chansue, a veterinarian in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre handles a sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank, at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after she removed coins lodged in its belly.PHOTO: AFP
A sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank comes up for air while swimming in a small sea water pool at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after it was operated on to remove coins lodged in its belly.
A sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank comes up for air while swimming in a small sea water pool at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center in Bangkok on March 13, 2017, days after it was operated on to remove coins lodged in its belly.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - A sea turtle dubbed Piggy Bank for swallowing nearly 1,000 coins took swimming lessons on Monday (March 13) as it 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 5kg of coins from its digestive tract - good luck pennies thrown into the pool it swam in.

The story of its 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 its 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 its pond seeking to "make merit" or good luck.

 

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 it could easily live for another 60 years.

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

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

Asked whether it will know how to swim in the deep blue, Nantarika replied: "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."