Be Careful What You Wish for

Happy Sunday Everyone,

Sea turtle flaps flippers in 1st rehab swim after surgery

I had been following the story of “Piggy Bank” recently, but her most recent update was not a positive one: How Thousands of ‘Good Luck’ Coins Killed a Rare Sea Turtle. Piggy Bank was a green sea turtle who was named after the fact that she had consumed 915 coins (11 lbs!) that were tossed into her enclosure in Thailand. The 25-year-old turtle had, for whatever reason, been living in a pool at Koh Loy Park in Thailand and was rescued by the Thai Navy. She was brought to a veterinary clinic, where she was found to have nickel toxicity 200 times the safe amount. Piggy Bank showed promise after the initial surgery that rid her of 11 pounds of coins, but the veterinarians were not able to remove all the coins. The turtle required a second surgery in an attempt to repair her damaged intestines. Unfortunately, she was unable to recover from the surgery and damage caused by the coins. She died a few days ago.

Looking further into this topic, I also found an article about the Oklahoma Zoo: Wishing well worries: Oklahoma City Zoo warning visitors about tossing coins. Back in 2008, they had a baby harbor seal die from ingesting 97 coins that had been thrown into her enclosure. Her stomach acid partially dissolved the coins, and consequently the seal absorbed all of the zinc and metallic properties of the coins. Some of the side effects of ingesting coins include liver and kidney failure, loss of red blood cells, ulcers, and internal bleeding. Despite hiring divers to collect coins biweekly and installing educational signs that inform the public to save their coins, the zoo continues to have issues with coin ingestion by their animals. Their sea lion has also ingested coins and may require anesthesia for an endoscopy procedure.



Some of the pinnipeds that I work with at the Marine Science Center


When I started researching this topic, I was a little surprised by the lack of articles that I found about the toxic effects of wishing ponds on fish. I think that most coins are too large for fish to swallow. However, the metallic properties of the coins still leach into the water, and I was able to find a few brief articles about it. Save Your Pennies: Copper Blocks Fish Sense and Throwing coins in koi pond only makes fish sick. The first article elaborates on a research publication that showed that copper released from pennies thrown into wishing ponds affects the olfactory sense of fish. The interference of the copper prevents the fish from detecting the olfactory cues released from other fish in response to predator detection. Interestingly, the study shows that nickel does not produce these olfactory-inhibiting effects, suggesting that people who spend a little more on their wishes do less damage to the lives of the fish. However, the second article reiterates that no coins are good for fish. An aquatic biologist stated, “Koi are very sensitive to the copper contained in pennies and quarters. Copper affects the blood cells and increases mucus production in the gills, both of which make it more difficult for the koi to breathe and absorb oxygen.”

I am glad that I ran across these articles because I am guilty of splurging for a wish or two in a pond. As a child, I did not realize that the coins could cause such dramatic issues for the animals. I think it is important to inform places with wishing ponds to install signs that alert visitors to not throw coins in the ponds and give them alternative ways to donate their money. So please think before wishing! Try to find a donation box or a designated wishing well instead and inform other people about the potential dangers of wishing wells/ponds.



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