Rare White Alligator Fights For Survival After Swallowing 70 Coins Tossed By Zoo Visitors

A rare white alligator named Thibodaux at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska, underwent a critical procedure to remove 70 coins from its stomach.

This unusual medical case has sparked widespread interest and concern, highlighting the unintended consequences of human interaction with wildlife enclosures.

Leucism is rare among  alligators

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Anastacia12182
Leucism is rare among alligators

The Discovery and Procedure

Thibodaux, a 36-year-old leucistic alligator, distinguished by its translucent white skin and striking blue eyes, became the center of attention when routine examinations revealed a collection of metal objects in its stomach, reports the BBC. Leucism, a condition resulting in partial loss of pigmentation, makes Thibodaux a rarity among its species.

Veterinarian Christina Ploog, alongside the zoo’s animal health team, led a delicate operation to extract the coins. The procedure involved anesthetizing Thibodaux and using a plastic pipe to safely navigate tools and a camera within the alligator’s stomach, ensuring a successful retrieval of the coins without causing harm to the animal, CNN reports.

“With the help of his training, Thibodaux was anesthetized and intubated to allow us to safely manage him during the procedure,” Ploog told the New York Post. “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.”

Human Impact and Zoo’s Response

Thibodaux is believed to have ingested the coins after zoo visitors threw them into the alligator’s enclosure. The coins were likely swallowed by Thibodaux between routine cleanings of the habitat, according to NBC DFW. While seemingly harmless, this practice poses significant risks to the health of animals.

In response to this incident, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has issued a plea to its visitors, urging them to refrain from throwing coins or any other objects into the enclosures, KETV reports.

The Bigger Picture: Animal Safety and Public Awareness

This event serves as a critical reminder of the direct impact human actions can have on wildlife, even in controlled environments like zoos. Hard, inedible objects like coins can cause health issues through ingestion, while also containing potentially dangerous chemicals, the BBC reports.

Thankfully, the zoo’s proactive approach to animal health, including regular examinations and cleanings, played a crucial role in identifying and addressing the issue before it could escalate into a more severe health crisis for Thibodaux.


A Call to Action

Thibodaux’s story is more than just a tale of veterinary intervention; it is a poignant example of the fragile balance between human curiosity and animal welfare. As Thibodaux recovers and returns to his habitat, the incident underscores the collective responsibility of the public and institutions to safeguard the well-being of animals in their care.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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