Turtle dies after surgery to remove 915 coins

Dr Nantarika Chansue (right) and other vets on a panel yesterday discussing the cause of Omsin's death. It died from blood poisoning after an operation to remove 5kg of coins it had swallowed.
Dr Nantarika Chansue (right) and other vets on a panel yesterday discussing the cause of Omsin's death. It died from blood poisoning after an operation to remove 5kg of coins it had swallowed.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • A 25-year-old Thai sea turtle died from blood poisoning yesterday, never recovering from an operation to remove 915 coins from its stomach, said veterinarians. The coins were thrown into its pool for good luck.

The green turtle named Omsin - "piggy bank" in Thai - underwent a seven-hour operation this month to remove 5kg of coins which it had mistaken for food.

Omsin, which lived at a conservation centre in Chonburi, east of the Thai capital Bangkok, was rushed into intensive care on Sunday night, when it was found to be breathing too slowly.

It underwent an emergency operation on Monday, after which it went into a coma.

Its fate had preoccupied Thais, who cherish turtles as a symbol of longevity. The vets had urged people to pray for its recovery.

Its plight has raised questions over the clash between traditional beliefs in good luck and animal welfare in the country. Omsin lived for two decades in the pond, with visitors tossing coins into the water, seeking to "make merit" or good luck.

"At 10.10am, she went with peace," a tearful Dr Nantarika Chansue, the vet in charge of Chulalongkorn hospital's aquatic research centre, told reporters.

"She is my friend, teacher and patient," she added.

One of the vets, speaking to reporters, said: "Her cause of death is blood poisoning." The gap in Omsin's stomach left by the removal of the coins caused its intestine to become constricted, blocking blood flow, the vets said.

Acute infection in the intestine then caused blood infection.

The vets also said that they would perform an autopsy on Omsin as a case study, which would benefit the treatment of turtles in the future.

"She is our teacher," another vet said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Turtle dies after surgery to remove 915 coins'. Print Edition | Subscribe