Otter in near-miss accident at East Coast Park

Today Online 10 May 16;

SINGAPORE — An otter was nearly run over by a car along East Coast Park Service Road recently, video footage on Facebook showed.

On Sunday (May 8), Mr Chun Kit Soo, who regularly posts updates of otters around Singapore on his Facebook page, published a video showing an otter narrowly avoiding a car as it crossed the road.

“From what I understand, the authorities (PUB, NParks, LTA) have been informed a couple of weeks back (of the otter situation at East Coast Park) and PUB has rejected the proposal of a temporary structure to help them climb out of the waterway,” Mr Soo wrote.

“When the tide is low and the otters can’t get home using their usual route — this (crossing the road) is what they will do in order to get home,” he added.

“I guess, the authorities will have to do think of something else,” he said, suggesting that signs be added to slow traffic along the road.

“Hopefully, they (the authorities) can find a solution fast so that the otters can go back to their holt without the need to cross the road.” A holt is an otter’s den.

While the post did not indicate where the near-miss took place, Safe Cycling Task Force President Steven Lim on Facebook said that at least one otter crossing lies along the stretch between the Playground at East Coast Park and Fort Road.

Mr Lim noted on the organisation’s Facebook page on Monday morning: “The frequency of crossings had been increasing over the last few days and in different group sizes. At times, an otter may even cross the road with a pup in it’s mouth. As Otter do not know how to read our traffic conditions, they will just dash and run across the road.

“The stretch of road is quite heavily used by motorists as well as cyclists, the dashing across the road of the otters has become a danger to both the animals and the road users. We would like to urge cyclists to slow down at that stretch of road and look out for these otters in the surrounding area. Alert other cyclists and motorists, give way to them and stay clear. Do not get too close and disturb their daily lives and peace.”

Mr Lim noted that NParks, the Land Transport Authority and some volunteers were already working on solutions to help the otters stay away from the roads.

“Meanwhile, do your part to save them, yourself and other road users from any mishaps. STAY ALERT! SLOW DOWN!”, he wrote.

In Parliament on Monday, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said that authorities would be reviewing the definition of “animals” in the Road Traffic Act, so that it includes other animals such as cats and wild animals which are potential victims of road accidents.

Presently, it is only an offence if a motorist knocks down a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle, and he or she does not stop to help. This is punishable with a S$3,000 fine or a jail term of up to a year.

“The specific provision in the Road Traffic Act relating to animals has been confined to farm animals of commercial value,” Mr Lee said. “The original intent of the legislation was to ensure restitution to their owners should an accident occur,” he added.

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