Otter-ly Amazing!

Otters are extremely sociable and often live in pairs or large families. 

Smooth-coated otters are the most-prevalent otters in Southeast Asia. These extremely sociable mammals, which belong to the weasal family, often live in pairs or large families. They have webbed feet that allow them to move easily from land to sea.  

Fifty years ago, it was extremely rare to spot wild otters in Singapore. At that time, waterways in the Southeast Asian city-state were so polluted that they killed off fish.

“Otters mainly eat fish, but sometimes they also eat prawns and even frogs,” explains Jo Wright, an otter enthusiast from Ottercity in Singapore. “Otters are a reminder of how important it is to look after the environment.” 


Cleaner waterways have meant a comeback for otters in Singapore, an urban center with a population of nearly 6 million people. 


About six years ago, smooth-coated otters were spotted again in a park in the heart of Singapore. What led to their return?

In March 1969, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew wanted clean waterways, where fish and water plants could grow. A multi-million dollar clean-up project of the Singapore River started in 1977 and ended in 1987.

Over the years, Singapore has developed a network of nearly 500 miles of waterways and 17 reservoirs. In 2009, desalting began in a dam called the Marina Barrage. This enabled the waterways connected to it to become freshwater, thereby revitalizing the ecosystem. 

To helps otters thrive, it's important not to chase or corner them during an encounter. Instead, observe them from a distance so as not to frighten them.

Wildlife experts also caution against feeding otters, which have their own natural eating habitats that keep the ecosystem healthy.  




Photos courtesy of the author