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Stop throwing coins into turtle ponds

The Straits Times | Benson Ang | Monday, Mar 20, 2017

This is not a wishing well. Please do not throw coins into the pond," so say two new signs at a turtle pond in Dempsey Hill.

The signs were placed there last Monday after news broke that a turtle in Thailand swallowed 5kg of coins - amounting to about 2,000 Thai baht (S$80) - thrown in by tourists seeking good fortune.

The 25-year-old green sea turtle, dubbed "Piggy Bank", was a resident of a small public park for two decades.

According to a wire report, visitors frequently threw coins into its pond because tradition holds that sharing one's wealth can make the coin thrower live a long life, just like turtles normally do.

Read also: Flipping happy: Coin swallowing Thai turtle on the mend

But after years of swallowing items thrown into its pool, it became difficult for "Piggy Bank" to swim.

It eventually had to undergo a gruelling seven-hour surgery to remove 915 coins - many corroded - in various currencies from its digestive tract.

Upon hearing the news, property investment firm Country City Investment, which runs the Dempsey Hill cluster of eateries and retail outlets in Singapore, decided to put up two signs around its turtle pond near Block 15 Dempsey Road, to save the seven turtles living there from a similar fate.

These turtles - as well as other fish - had been released by members of the public into the 20 sq m pond over the years.

The pond was built in 2009 to house a giant 1.8m arapaima fish left by a previous tenant.

Mr Nicholas Ng, 38, the firm's general manager, says: "It is shocking to hear about the news of the turtle in Thailand. Visitors need to be educated to prevent such incidents from happening again."

Visitors usually throw a few hundred dollars' worth of coins a year into the turtle pond, he adds.

These coins are cleared regularly as part of pond maintenance and the money goes towards charitable causes, such as programmes to help children, youth and the elderly.

Last Thursday, Mr Kamrul Islam, 39, a general worker with the firm, collected $1.50 worth of coins.

He says: "I just cleared the coins a week ago. People can throw in up to $30 a month."

Over at the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Bright Hill Road is another turtle pond containing about 400 turtles.

A glass barrier has been installed around the pond to prevent visitors from throwing anything inside.

The monastery's senior manager, Mr Patrick Lee, says: "We should take this as an opportunity to remind ourselves not to cause suffering or take away innocent lives through negligent acts such as littering."

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, 34, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says: "Coins should never be thrown into an enclosure with animals.

"They will serve a much greater purpose in a charity's donation box."

He explains that animals sometimes consume non-food items possibly because they mistake these items for food, or from nutritional imbalances or a sense of frustration from living in a stressful or barren environment.

"Coins that are eaten will initially settle in the animal's stomach and may then make their way into the intestines. They can cause pain, discomfort and intestinal blockages, preventing the passage of food and absorption of nutrients. Left untreated, the animal will likely die."

He adds that it is good to see owners of ponds in Singapore stepping up to take responsibility for the animals under their care.

As for "Piggy Bank", its surgery was successful and it reportedly paddled around a small pool with relative ease last Monday.


This article was first published on Mar 19, 2017.
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