Otter family spotted having a fun time at Marina Bay

A family of otters was spotted again frolicking at Marina Bay last weekend, attracting a crowd of excited onlookers who whipped out their cameras to capture the group in action.

Among the people enjoying their antics was tour guide Edna Ong, who managed to snap photos of a pair having a meal of fish.

The otters have become a relatively common sight, she said. She sees them every one to two months while conducting tours along the Kallang River.

This has made her rather attached to them. "I start to miss them if I don't see them for months," said Ms Ong, who is in her 50s.

Otters were also spotted at Punggol Waterfront and East Coast Park earlier this month, according to the Otter Watch Facebook page, which is a project to consolidate otter sightings in Singapore.

The otter is a threatened native species that is found in both marine and freshwater habitats. It typically thrives around mangroves, river mouths and natural shorelines.

Singapore is home to both the smooth-coated and small-clawed otters, with the former spotted at places like the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Punggol Waterfront and Sungei Buloh more regularly over the last few years.

The small-clawed otters are less common here but can be found in areas such as Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin.

Mr N. Sivasothi, a senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences, said the number of otters here has increased over the years. They have also become more visible as they have started families.

A female otter at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, for instance, gave birth to triplets early this year. The family of five was seen at Lower Peirce and MacRitchie reservoirs last month.

As to whether the otter population will reach a tipping point, and if they will one day become pests, Mr Sivasothi said that is unlikely.

"It depends on whether they have food, a place to hide and surfaces to dry up on," he said. "Finding such a place here is limited so that will limit the numbers."

Members of the public are advised to keep their distance when they spot wild otters so as not to provoke them.

This article was first published on August 20, 2015.
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