'Otterly' cute National Day gift on YouTube

Lee Min Kok Straits Times 11 Aug 16;

Can't get enough of cute animals on the Internet? A new YouTube video to commemorate National Day has provided a further glimpse into Singapore's wild otter population in their natural element.

Produced by otter watcher Jeffery Teo, 45, the five-minute clip combines footage taken by fellow enthusiasts over the past year.

It opens with Bishan's now famous otter family - fondly named the Bishan 10 - gambolling about in the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and swimming in its river.

It also captures other less well- known otter families in Tanah Merah, Serangoon and Pulau Ubin. In a poll earlier this week, The Straits Times' readers chose Bishan's otter family as their pick for the 51st object that best represents Singapore in its 51st year.

Said Mr Teo, a senior director in the financial service sector: "I couldn't be more delighted that the Bishan 10 has received so much recognition ever since they appeared on the public's radar last year.

"It shows Singaporeans have truly learnt to embrace the wildlife living in our midst, and to appreciate nature more."

Mr Teo, who spent three weekends putting together the video, said he hopes it will educate the public on the other otter families which call Singapore home. The otter population in Singapore is estimated to be about 50.

Mr Sean Yap, 24, an environmental biology student who frequents the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and has seen three pups there, said: "Singapore prides itself on being a city in a garden, and the otters are a testament of the country's ability to develop while preserving what is left of our native biodiversity."

He sees the clip as a good opportunity to expose Singaporeans to the animals that they share the island with, and also the potential problems posed by them.

"While they may be cute, we have already seen the results of human familiarisation of wild mammals such as macaques and wild pigs, where increased feeding and interaction has led to human-wildlife conflict. This often leads to culling or some other drastic measure."

There have been media reports of the otters eating fish, such as koi and tilapia, from homes and hotels. Owners and breeders of these fish have resorted to using measures such as electric fences to keep the mammals out.

But Mr N. Sivasothi, a senior lecturer with the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore, said: "There is a lot of interest in otters' ecological role as top predator now in rivers. They may be able to help reduce alien fish which may allow native fish recovery.

"Overall, Singaporeans are still very receptive to the otters and are enjoying this unique experience."

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