Mind the gap: NParks shares tips on how to keep otters away from homes, pet koi

NParks (left) working with homeowners to prevent otter intrusions.
PHOTO: NParks

Otter sightings have become more common in recent times, but what can we do to protect our homes from these hungry animals?

While it varies from house to house, meshing up gaps and erecting "otter-proof" barriers could just about prevent your prized pet fishes, including those expensive koi, from being wiped out, according to the National Parks Board (NParks) in a virtual press conference about otter management on Monday (Oct 17).

Adding how NParks have been working with homeowners at otter hotspots such as in Bukit Timah, Seletar and along Alexandra Canal, the agency said: "We are seeing that fencing is effective against otter intrusion, so we'll continue to do that.

"We should hopefully reach the point that the otters are excluded from some of these areas and they will just reverted back to our natural waterways."

In a Facebook post on Monday, Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How added that while otters largely stay within the waterways, they may occasionally visit residential properties with ponds as the fish there are easy prey for them.

"With these measures in place, these otters are likely to move on as they are unable to access the ponds for food," he said. 

More complaints about otters this year

The number of otters in Singapore has increased to 170 islandwide and just this year alone, NParks shared that they have received over 300 otter-related feedback as of September.

This figure is already more than the whole of last year (305) and in 2020 (208).

Some of the feedback include complaints about otters intruding into residential estates, and concerns on whether these animals are "lost" outside of their natural habitat.

Earlier in October, a Bukit Timah resident woke up to find out that her beloved koi – valued at around $20,000 – were eaten by hungry otters.

Speaking to AsiaOne then, Tham Yuen Ying shared how she had reared the fish with her father for over 20 years.

"In one night, it [my hobby] is destroyed," the 36-year-old lamented, while adding complaining that the otter population is getting out of control.

Transferring otters out of Seletar estate

While the 170-strong otter population is a popular sight in places such as at the Marina Bay reservoir, Singapore River and Kallang River, NParks said that small groups of otters have made their home in residential areas. 

Describing one such instance of six otters who have split from their larger families to establish a holt at estates in Seletar, NParks said: "We realised that they were isolated [from natural food sources] and they're very close to people.

"Since there's a very high potential for human-wildlife conflict, we decided to transfer them out. The first time we're doing this."

The otters were successfully relocated to an undisclosed location last week, NParks shared, adding that it was a joint operation between them and the OWG which include agencies such as Acres, Mandai Wildlife Group and the Public Utilities Board.

Otters at Seletar estate. PHOTO: NParks

Bernard Seah, a volunteer with the OWG, also shared that his group also educates members of the public on what to do when one encounters otters.

"If you have a dog, it's better to have them on a leash if you happen to bump into otters," the 53-year-old said, adding that he also recommends staying away from the animals and feeding them, especially when there are pups around.

In July, a woman was chased by a bevy of angry otters at West Coast Park after she had allegedly stepped on one of their pups.

And in December last year, a man racked up $1,200 in medical bills after he was bitten "26 times in 10 seconds" by otters at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

ALSO READ: When the bulldog's away, the otters will play: Yio Chu Kang homeowner loses goldfish worth $5,000

chingshijie@asiaone.com

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