Wishing well worries: Oklahoma City Zoo warning visitors about tossing coins

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Many people like to throw their coins in a well, make a wish and hope it comes true.

However, that tradition is causing health problems for many animals at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Now, signs are posted around the zoo, warning visitors about the dangers of a single coin.

In 2008, a baby harbor seal named 'Brindle' died from eating coins.

Staff members say they found a total of 97 coins in her stomach at the time of her death.

Nearly seven years later, the Oklahoma City Zoo is still trying to raise awareness that coins kill.

"These were whole pennies when she swallowed them. Her stomach acid dissolved those and she absorbed all of the zinc in those pennies,” said Jennifer D’Agostino, the Oklahoma City Zoo's veterinarian.

Despite the posted warnings across the zoo, Oklahoma City zookeepers say they continue to see kids and adults throw money into exhibits with water.

"When the coin gets thrown in, it trickles down in the water. And if the sunlight hits it, it shines and sometimes it looks like a fish. They get really interested in it and they can ingest it,” said D’Agostino.

It's a “treat” that comes at a toxic cost.

"When it hits the stomach acid, it degrades and they absorb that into their body and it can cause liver failure, kidney failure, loss of red blood cells. It can cause bleeding, ulcers,” said D’Agostino.

Recently, two quarters were found in the body of sea lion, Addie.

"We've been trying to see if we can get them to pass without having to do anesthesia, but it looks like we will have to get them out with anesthesia and get them out with an endoscope,” said D’Agostino.

It's a surgery that could have been prevented and a valuable reminder to keep your spare change tucked away in your pocket.

"We really want to keep our animals healthy. Some of our species, of course, are endangered and very valuable," she said.

The Oklahoma City Zoo has divers who scour animal exhibit ponds twice a week to look for coins and other dangerous items.

Animals and mammals go through x-rays twice a year as a precaution to check for coins.

The zoo does have a “Coins for Conservation Wishing Well.”

They ask that if you want to throw a coin and make a wish,  do it there.

That money goes to conservation efforts around the world.

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