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At least 50 otters call S'pore home

OTTER-LY SMITTEN: Otter watchers Jeffery Teo (left, in background), Nick Soo or Fast Snail (in orange) and Yane Kang take shots of the Bishan 10 otters.


    Apr 18, 2016

    At least 50 otters call S'pore home

    OTTERS are riding on a wave of interest here, with a meeting this week among watchers, researchers and government agencies to discuss how to better work together, insiders tell My Paper.

    Up till about five years ago, otters were considered rare sightings in Singapore, said Jeffery Teo, 44, who has photographed the mammals for about four years and is known affectionately within the circle as a “pioneer”. 

    This was apart from occasional sightings of lone or small groups in Sungei Buloh, Pulau Ubin and along our coastal areas, said Mr Teo, who works in financial services.

    The otter-watching community here is growing, with an informal group of about 20 seeing increasing attention from members of the public here and even abroad.

    These watchers include students, film-makers, retirees and working professionals who have met one another in the past two years, mostly from following different otters here.

    There are now at least 50 otters here, said N. Sivasothi, a research associate at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, who has studied the mammals since 1994.

    The National University of Singapore lecturer heads the Facebook page OtterWatch, which provides information and updates on otters here.

    Now that it is relatively easier to spot otters, interest in the creatures has grown “tremendously”, said Mr Sivasothi. 

    “This is due to the ease with which otters have been seen in Bishan, Marina Bay, Punggol-Serangoon and even Changi, East Coast and Tanah Merah,” he added. 

    “Also, more people are visiting waterways, beaches and parks.”

    Otters here are also gaining global attention as “Singaporeans share lots of images on Facebook, so we have followers from around the world”.

    In fact, the 13th International Otter Congress – organised by the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group – will be held in Singapore for the first time this July.

    “Singaporeans delighted by the otters are rediscovering our watershed – people who never looked into our waterways are now drawn to the restored, healthy rivers,” said Mr Sivasothi. 

    “Caring for the environment in the surrounding urban catchment will reduce pollution into our rivers. 

    “We have a direct influence on our waterways... and should make a great effort to appreciate and support the return of nature.”