Scuffle between crocodile and otters captured on video in Sungei Buloh not a rare sight: Nature observers

THE STRAITS TIMES
Tuesday, Sep 11, 2018
Photo: Video screengrab

SINGAPORE - What happens when a well-known tailless crocodile gets into a fight with a group of six otters? The otters win, it seems. And such scuffles are not rare, said nature observers.

In a video uploaded on Facebook on Sunday (Sept 9), a group of six otters is seen fending off the crocodile in the waters of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

The clips show the otters bobbing up and down in the water before approaching the crocodile, nicknamed Tailless by nature watchers because it has a stump where its tail should be.

The crocodile snaps unsuccessfully at the otters, as they circle around it.

The 1min 16sec clip was posted on the Ottercity Facebook page by veteran otter watcher Jeffery Teo, who said the face-off lasted about 10 minutes before the crocodile eventually swam away.

The video has since garnered at least 15,000 views and more than 200 shares online.

While many netizens were in awe of the fight, Mr Teo, who has been observing wildlife at Sungei Buloh for around 15 years, said he has seen such scuffles occur around five times in the past few years.

Mr Teo, 47, who works in the financial services industry, said: "While crocodiles can be hard to spot sometimes, you can (detect) their presence by the reactions of otters and monitor lizards. They will be on alert when they sense a crocodile."

National University of Singapore (NUS) biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who heads the OtterWatch group, said the action of the otters bobbing up and down in the water is called periscoping. They do this to monitor their surroundings above the water, such as the threat of a crocodile in this case.

Mr Sivasothi, who is known as the Otterman, said he is also aware of similar encounters between crocodiles and otters that have happened here.

He added: "Otters and crocodiles, both fish eaters, are unable to drive each other out of an area so they have to co-exist.

"From time to time, they will encounter each other. Otters, being the more agile and busy species, are the ones which will initiate contact with a crocodile."

Mr Teo estimates that there are two otter families in Sungei Buloh, and said that these otters have previously been spotted challenging feral dogs and monitor lizards.

He added that Tailless has been in the reserve for at least 12 years, since it was a small crocodile.

While the otters have strength in numbers, Tailless and other crocodiles in Sungei Buloh have come out tops in some face-offs.

Mr Teo said: "There is not really a clear winner every time, it depends on which family of otters is involved and the strength of the otters."

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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