I recently made a quick weekend trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and while I was there I heard a story that hit way too close to home.

You may not know this, but in addition to being the home of great steaks and the Men's College World Series (LSU definitely has second-home clout out there), Omaha is also home to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. One of my Lyft drivers said it was like, second in the country to the San Diego Zoo. So, as I'm Googling this to see if he's right, I come across a wild story.

Imagine this: veterinarians at the zoo had to perform a public surgical procedure on Thibodaux (yes, spelled like our Louisiana city), a majestic white alligator, to remove $7 in coins from his stomach. I literally thought I was on a hidden camera because it was that unbelievable. But at this point, I was sucked in. I needed to know more, so I clicked through.

Thibodaux, one of the zoo's cherished American alligators, found himself in this predicament due to guests tossing cash into his enclosure. The vets had to use some high-tech tools, including a camera, to safely remove these coins to prevent health issues. The zoo's associate veterinarian, Christina Ploog, and the director of animal health, Taylor Yaw, shared insights on the meticulous care and training that allowed this procedure to be successful.

They emphasized the importance of not throwing coins or any objects into animal enclosures or bodies of water, suggesting that if you've got some loose change, consider turning it into a souvenir coin or tossing it into a wishing well instead.

This whole ordeal made me think about the gators we have around us in Louisiana. With alligators not just in zoos but in places like the Jungle Gardens in Avery Island, and even lurking in the swamps on the UL campus, the message from Omaha rings especially true for us. It's something that a kid may do for fun not even knowing there are gators in the body of water or maybe an adult who doesn't realize their small actions can actually cause harm to our wildlife.

So, as we have many places where gators are just roaming in waters (both captive and non-captive), let's keep Thibodaux's story in mind. It's insane that he was able to survive, but it's sad to think that many coins were ingested in the first place. I'm not going all "save the planet" or preaching down to you, but I feel like it takes minimal effort to show these animals the respect and care they deserve. And remember, the next time you're tempted to toss a coin for luck, maybe just sure there are no gators or other animals who will steal your wish as a harmful snack.

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Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher

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