NParks relocates otters at Seletar as part of measures to manage population
Currently, Singapore has around 170 otters from about 17 families, with the Bishan, Marina, and Zouk groups being more prominent.
A group of otters found wandering away from the waterways and establishing holts – holes in the ground where otters sleep and rest – in a residential area in Seletar were relocated by the National Parks Board (NParks) last week.
The otters were transferred to an undisclosed location where “they have access to their natural food sources”, said NParks in a media factsheet on Monday (Oct 17).
To pre-empt or mitigate such human-wildlife conflict, NParks is monitoring the otters regularly. Monitoring will also allow the board to better understand their population, distribution and movement patterns.
On top of monitoring, the board is working closely with the Otter Working Group (OWG) and the local community of otter watchers to raise awareness through outreach and signage, and put in place physical interventions such as barriers.
However, if necessary, a long-term approach would be to relocate or sterilise the otters.
The group of three adults and three pups found at Seletar were assessed to be isolated from their natural food sources, and the estate became their main foraging ground.
To resolve this issue, the organisations monitored the otters closely to assess their suitability for transfer, for their welfare and to mitigate potential issues from human-wildlife encounters.
Monitoring also helped NParks and OWG to understand the otters’ behaviour patterns such as the time at which they are active, so as to plan for the transfer operations.
To secure the otters, perimeter fencing was installed around the holt, and once the otters were secured, they were transferred to the undisclosed location.
For similar situations in the future, NParks plans on executing such measures for “the welfare of these otters and to address issues that may arise from inadvertent human-wildlife encounters”.
As for otters which have been visiting ponds in residential areas, foraging for food, NParks and OWG are currently working with homeowners and estate managers to deny the otters access to private spaces through simple infrastructure alterations, such as meshing up gaps in gates to prevent the otters from entering.
“With these measures in place, the otters are likely to move on as they are unable to access the ponds for food,” shared Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How in a Facebook post on Monday.
Homeowners rearing fish are encouraged to employ exclusion methods as well, like sealing or meshing gaps in fencing and gates, and erecting otter-proof barriers for ponds.
Currently, Singapore has around 170 otters from about 17 families, with the Bishan, Marina and Zouk groups more prominent. They are often sighted at the Marina Bay reservoir, Singapore River, Kallang River and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.
However, NParks assured that due to environmental limits or the ‘carrying capacity’ of the area, and availability of suitable habitats, the otter population will be naturally limited.
“As otters are highly territorial, competition for space and mortality will further limit how much the populations can grow,” said NParks in a media factsheet.
SMS Tan Kiat How added in his post: “We will continue to work closely with stakeholders to monitor the otters and mitigate potential encounters.
“The community can help by observing otters from a distance and refraining from approaching or feeding them, especially when there are pups present as the adults would become protective.
“Together, we can foster an environment that is conducive for both people and wildlife in our City in Nature.”
If you spot injured wildlife or wildlife within your house, call NParks’ 24-hour Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600 or ACRES at 9783 7782.
To learn more about wildlife, Singpaoreans can visit Our Wild Neighbours, an initiative by the Urban Wildlife Working Group (UWG) meant to promote coexistence with wildlife in Singapore.