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Karma, coins and turtles don’t mix


A CAT scan showing what was thought to be a tumor is actually an accumulation of almost a thousand coins. (Image/text courtesy

A 1970 song written by British musician and former member of the Beatles John Lennon includes the line “Instant karma’s going to get you.” Karma can be good karma, but it isn’t good karma if you are a turtle feeding on coins tossed to bring that good karma to some human.

Confused? In the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Tao traditions karma is a spiritual principle where the intent and actions of a person influence that person’s future or into a future life of that person. It is believed good karma comes from good intentions and good deeds, while bad karma comes from bad intentions and bad deeds.

No one knows for certain what Lennon meant by “instant karma” in his song “We All Shine On,” but several of his biographers have suggested Lennon was rebuking his listeners with sarcastic lyrics. There is a certain turtle in Thailand, however, who wished she could rebuke the people who had been feeding her coins so that they, rather than the unfortunate turtle, will earn good karma by so doing.

Osmin was a green sea turtle. Her name means “piggy bank” in the Thai language. People treated her like one, throwing coins to her into the pond in a town near the Gulf of Thailand where she lived.

According to local folklore a turtle such as Osmin can live for a thousand years. They are known as “millennium magic turtles.” Zoologists suggest they can really live for about 150 years. Osmin was about age 25 when her coin addiction almost killed her.

None of the local news outlets covering Osmin’s predicament has ventured a guess as to which coins were being thrown. Since the incident took place in Thailand, it is likely the coins were anything between the yummy aluminum-manganese 1 satang to the absolutely delectable copper-nickel outer ring, aluminum-bronze center 10 baht, which incidentally is a challenging to swallow 26 millimeters in diameter.

A Fox news affiliate came the closest, describing the numismatic problem as “vets filled a bucket with coin after coin – Thai coins; foreign coins; coins so corroded that their provenance could not be known.”

The Bangkok Post is one of the newspapers that reported on Osmin’s predicament. In the March 15 issue, the newspaper quoted Pasakorn Brikshavana, a veterinarian with the Chulalongkorn University team that performed emergency surgery on the turtle, as saying, “It is hard to imagine how it swallowed such a large number of coins. I’ve never seen such a case before.”

Veterinarian Nantarika Chansue is in charge of the surgical team. Chansue told the Thai news website Khaosod English, “We found coins both in her stomach and intestines. If we didn’t operate on her then she wouldn’t have been able to eat or defecate, and would have soon died.”

Chansue added, “It’s torture for animals after they eat the coins people throw into ponds. Instead of getting merit, you actually commit a sin [when you feed coins to a turtle to receive good karma].”

Chansue’s veterinary team found an egg-shaped clump of 915 originally silver color coins weighing 11 pounds once they operated. The clump had turned black. The vets anesthetized the 130-pound turtle, then cut its shell to get to the stomach. The operation took almost four hours.

Chansue is known to be Thailand’s leading turtle rescuer, freeing turtles from filthy ponds for the past 15 years ever since a Buddhist monk asked for her help for animals being dumped at his temple. Since that time she has rescued thousands of animals.

Unfortunately, Osmin died of complications following a second surgery on March 21. According to the veterinary clinic where Osmin had been operated on, “The cause of death was intestinal obstruction that blocked Omsin’s protein intake, while nickel toxicity from the coins damaged her immune system.”

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.

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