They leave a path of misery, destruction and fish carcasses in their wake.
Singapore’s otter population showed no mercy on the locals’ pet fish and began to eat the expensive koi carp that many Singaporeans keep in private ponds.
It’s hard to say how many otters live among the nation of 5.7 million people – official figures hover around 100 – but residents have documented a growing number of attacks from the dozen otter families. who live on the island.
In 2020, a cheeky otter coterie known as the Zouk family (named after a local nightclub) made an outing to a local condominium. The group attacked the building’s koi pond, then splashed into its pool, bringing their slain koi into the pool.
Earlier this year, a group of otters snuck into a local church and killed nearly 100 fish – about half of which were koi carp – over the course of several days.
And just last week, a pod of otters struck a private koi pond in the city-state’s northeast, attacking and killing several fish. The owner in his sixties, who was called Anthony, was devastated. He told the local Mothership store that he has been looking after some of the fish since he was a child and that several of his longtime koi carp have grown to almost two feet in length.
Anthony told the outlet he was “depressed” over the loss of his “beloved” fish, recalling that he would hand feed the animals every morning and night.
“I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that people keep koi for years and years,” Philip Johns, a biologist at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, told Insider. The average lifespan of a koi fish is around 40 years, according to the Singapore National Zoo, but it can live much longer; a Japanese koi lived to be 226 years old.
Plus, Johns added, koi can be pricey. Some rare ornamental koi can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, depending on the colors and markings of the fish. A 2018 Japanese koi carp auction cost a fish $ 1.8 million.
Anthony told Mothership that he spent around $ 6,000 to outfit his pond with koi, but the price tag for an otter feast can go much higher.
Over the course of several days in 2015, a pack of otters decimated about $ 64,000 in koi carp owned by an owner on the resort island of Sentosa in Singapore, the Straits Times reported. That same year, otters emptied a koi pond at the Shangri-la Resort, also on the island. The fish are said to be worth about $ 80,000.
Spending so much money on fish might seem ridiculous to many, but Johns compared it to raising “prized poodles” and having them killed by wild animals.
“I don’t think anyone questions that this is a real tragedy,” he said.
“I think if someone lost a pet that they had invested a lot of time and energy in, they would be really hurt on top of the financial loss,” Johns added.
COVID-19 restrictions appear to have emboldened animals
Otters have always been native to Singapore, but for many years the population was virtually non-existent. The massive development of the 1960s and 1970s destroyed the animal’s habitat and resulted in widespread pollution, National Geographic reported.
But after Singapore began cleaning up its troubled waterways in the late 1970s, otter families slowly returned.
The majority of otters now living in the city-state are smooth-coated otters, which can weigh up to 22 pounds, although there is also a smaller population of small-clawed otters. Singapore’s otter population is still listed as Critically Endangered, according to the country’s national park system, but Johns said groups of Singapore otters are increasingly having cubs.
In light of the attacks, some Singaporeans began to view otters as a nuisance. In 2020, after a series of attacks on pet fish, a Straits Times reader wrote to recommend the culling of the animals.
“Wild boars have never been encouraged to enter urban areas, neither should otters just because they look cute,” Ong Jungkai wrote.
“We’re going to throw some alligators in our channels. See if that helps,” a Facebook commenter wrote on an animal post earlier this year.
Some residents joked that groups of 14 or 18 otters should be punished for breaking the country’s COVID-19 safety distance rules, which have capped group sizes to less than two, five or eight people over the course. the last two years.
Otters were likely emboldened by Singapore’s COVID-19 containment measures, which placed the country in near total lockdown from April to June 2020.
“When we had the Strict Breaker in 2020, everything was bolder. There was hardly anyone on the streets. It was a ghost town,” Johns said. “When you watched from your balcony and the roads were empty, and I think at that point the otters were clear.”
Public opinion remains quite planted in the otter corner
Despite their slight reign of terror, most Singaporeans still seem to hold otters in high regard. In 2016, otters were voted the country’s animal icon to celebrate Singapore’s 51st birthday.
Even otter victims – including former actress Jazreel Low, who in 2020 captured otters killing koi carp in the beauty spa she owns – have rushed to animal rights.
“Otters are living things too, and I don’t feel good to say that they have to die because of this incident,” she told the Singaporean newspaper Today Online, adding: “We have to find a way to live with them. them is the easiest way, but I don’t think it’s the right way to get out of it. Coexisting with them can be more difficult, but we just have to learn how to do it. “
Additionally, Jeffrey Teo, the founder of the Ottercity otter appreciation Facebook group, told the South China Morning Post, that otters actually epitomize #life goals for many Singaporeans.
“They are exactly who we want to be,” he said. “They spend time with their family. They love to swim, eat well and get some sun.”
Read the original article on Insider