BANGKOK (AP) — Bank the green sea turtle flapped her flippers with vigor in her first swim after a life-saving operation to remove a heavy mass of swallowed coins from her stomach.
Veterinarians in Bangkok put the turtle in water Friday for the first time since her surgery four days ago to see how well she could move. The turtle was gently lowered into a large plastic tank and very quickly began swimming as best as she could in the restricted space.
"It's fantastic! She is responding very well," said Dr. Nantarika Chansue, who led the team from Chulalongkorn University's Veterinary Faculty. "Now she is very happy and looks like normal turtle."
The 25-year-old turtle was rescued from a pool in the seaside town of Sri Racha by the Thai navy. The cause of her ill health was revealed by 3D scans that showed she had been eating the coins thrown into her pool by passers-by who believed doing so would bring them luck or longevity.
Over the years, the loose change got stuck in the turtle's digestive tract, cracking her ventral shell and causing a life-threatening infection.
The surgeons needed four hours to remove 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of money, counting 915 coins of various currencies. Some are still inside. Veterinarians hope Bank will pass them naturally.
Her rehabilitation has involved manipulating her limbs to make sure the muscles don't stiffen up after being out of water for a prolonged period, and checking that the surgical scar does not get infected. But there are lingering concerns.
"The wound healing seems to be OK and there is no secondary infection because we are using sterile seawater," said Nantarika, "but we have checked her blood and her nickel concentration is very high so we have to work on that."
Associated Press writers Dake Kang and Kaweewit Kaewjinda contributed to this report.