Intelligent otters look for easy prey
Fishes in Sentosa ponds are big, easy to catch
Otters are not only cute but also intelligent, say experts.
Mr Ben Lee, 53, founder of Nature Trekker, a nature conservation group, said: "These wild animals are native to Singapore. As strong swimmers, they can travel long distances in the water at high speeds."
There are two species of otters here - the smooth-coated otter and the small-clawed otter.
"Smooth-coated otters are larger than cats, they're really big," Mr Lee said.
Sentosa Cove residents told The New Paper on Wednesday that they have seen an increase in otters around their homes over the last two years.
Mr N. Sivasothi, a biological sciences lecturer at the National University of Singapore, said there are about 50 smooth-coated otters living in Singapore.
"The current population has not increased over the past year or so.
"In captivity, the record (of an otter's life span) is about 18 years. It may be about 12 years in the wild."
As to the number of offspring otters can produce in their lifespan, Mr Sivasothi said: "I do not know at what age they lose their reproductive abilities or are out-competed for territory. We have not seen reports of families with more than two litters living together."
"There are many potential predators of young cubs - birds of prey and other carnivorous birds, large monitor lizards, crocodiles and feral dogs."
Otter enthusiast Jeffrey Teo, 45, said there are three reasons that people are seeing more otters now.
"There is more accessibility to waterways through park connectors. Also, phone cameras and social media allow immediate and regular sharing."
Mr Lee said what the Sentosa Cove residents are experiencing may just be a congregation of otters in one place.
"They will go for fishes in ponds as they are big and easy to catch," he said.
NOT A DANGER
Deputy chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, Ms Anbarasi Boopal, said: "Their main diet is fishes, but they also feed on invertebrates such as crustaceans, small mammals like water rats and possibly smaller birds."
Experts agree that otters are not a danger to humans. "Otters can be aggressive by nature, but they are not prone to attacking other animals or humans unless provoked," said Mr Lee.
Said Ms Boopal: "It is important that the public is made aware to appreciate them from a distance and to leash their dogs when walking in otter sighting areas to prevent interaction (with)... the otters."