A team of Thai veterinary surgeons on Monday successfully removed nearly a thousand coins from a turtle’s stomach, the world’s first such surgery.

Five veterinarians at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University conducted a six-hour surgery on Omsin, Thai for “piggy bank,” to remove a total of 915 coins weighing five kilograms from the 59-kilogram female turtle.

“The coins came from many countries, mainly from Asia,” Nuntarika Chansoe said in a press briefing following the surgery.

Tossing coins into ponds is believed by many to bring good luck, and, in ponds with turtles, longevity, as the animals can live well over 100 years. Some also believe they are “making merit” for the animals, which is a Buddhist tradition.

Omsin is a 25-year-old green turtle sent from a local turtle pond in Sriracha, a town 120 kilometres south-east of Bangkok, to the Thai navy’s Sea Turtle Conservation Centre nearby after the local operator closed down in June.

In February, veterinarians at the Bangkok university asked the navy to send Omsin to its animal hospital for a check-up, after the team found the turtle to be swimming sideways without using her left leg.

“At first I thought the turtle might have been paralysed. But an X-ray and a CT scan revealed a massive chunk of objects,” Nuntarika said.

“It was quite a difficult and challenging task,” said Pasakorn Briksawan, one of the surgeons operating on Omsin.

“After we removed the coins one by one, it became obvious the turtle was breathing much better,” Nuntarika added.

Once Omsin recuperates, she will be sent back to the navy before being released back to nature.

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