Nebraska Zoo Removes 70 Coins from Alligator's Stomach, Asks Visitors Not to Toss Money into Water

Thibodaux, a 36-year-old alligator, underwent a surgical procedure to remove the coins before they could cause health issues

<p> Omaha

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium/Facebook

Thibodaux, an alligator at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo

A zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, is urging its guests to avoid throwing cash into enclosures.

Veterinarians at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium pulled $7 in coins from a white alligator’s stomach after finding metal foreign objects during their routine exams. Thibodaux, one of the 10 American alligators under the zoo’s care, underwent a public surgical procedure to remove the coins before they could cause health issues. Guests snapped pictures as the vets extracted the money out of Thibodaux’s stomach in the Desert Dome.

"With the help of his training, Thibodaux was anesthetized and intubated to allow us to safely manage him during the procedure," explained Christina Ploog, associate veterinarian at the Henry Doorly Zoo, in a Facebook post on the zoo’s account. “A plastic pipe was placed to protect his mouth and safely pass the tools used to access the coins, such as a camera that helped us guide the retrieval of these objects.”

Related: Omaha Zoo's Oldest Giraffe Dottie Dies at 22: 'She Will Be Greatly Missed'

While Thibodaux is now recovered and back in his habitat, the zoo added in the post that visitors “should not throw coins into any bodies of water at the Zoo.” Instead, they suggested that loose change be cashed in for a souvenir coin or tossed into the wishing well.

Ploog, who led Thibodaux’s surgery, also told local station KETV that the staff assumes that coins are tossed directly into alligators’ mouths rather than scooped off the ground. “They’re so thin, for them to be able to get it off the ground would be very difficult,” she said.

<p> Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium/Facebook</p>

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium/Facebook

Taylor Yaw, zoo veterinarian and director of animal health, said in the press release that the treatment was an example of the “excellent care” that on-site medical teams provide for the animals.

Related: Omaha Zoo Announces the Death of Jontu the Rhino, Who Loved 'Mud Baths' and 'Hello Snorts'

Last year, Henry Doorly Zoo had another incident where a cheetah escaped from its designated area. The zoo immediately activated its emergency protocols, securing exits until they returned the cheetah, Gretchen, to her habitat. In a statement, they assured that the feline did not pose a threat to visitors, as she remained “behind the public barrier.”

Henry Doorly isn't the first zoo to urge guests not to toss money into exhibits.

In 2020, the Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri posted a video on Facebook in which Dr. Chris Hanley, assistant director of animal health, said one of the zoo's alligators had what appeared to be, based on x-rays, a coin inside her stomach.

"On an X-ray, metal is white, so that is a foreign object," he said, displaying the scans. "It's probably a coin that was tossed or fell into her exhibit. It poses a risk to our animals when these things are put into their exhibit."

"Please be careful around our open habitats. Animals can ingest anything that might accidentally fall in," the zoo wrote along with the video. "If that happens, please find a Zoo employee and let them know, or call the Be Kind Line phone number listed on a nearby sign."

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