The Bishan otter family grew to 16 members following the addition of a new litter of six pups in late November 2017.
Given the size of the family, it is no longer easy for Bishan parents to pay close attention to all the pups.
2 Bishan otter pups forgotten
As a result, a pair of 11-week-old Bishan otter pups were forgotten by the family as the rest headed out of the holt on Dec. 27.
A member of OtterWatch, Jeff Teo, shared with Mothership.sg that the pair of siblings might have been a pair of sleepyheads that the rest of the family did not notice as they left them alone.
They were forgotten by the family. This is likely due to the big family size. They left their holt before 6am the day before. It was pitch dark and likely the two pups were in deep sleep and tucked away deeper somewhere inside the holt. The pups didn't hear the family leaving and the family didn't notice the two pups were not following.
From our observations, this is not intentional abandonment by the family.
Left alone for more than two days
Instead of an excursion to the Children Garden at Gardens by the Bay, which the otter pups' siblings enjoyed, the pair of lost pups had their share of adventure.
It was almost a survival boot camp for them as they got to fend for themselves while searching for the rest.
However, there is little that the young pups can do as they can neither catch fish nor swim across deep water.
The pups have just began eating fish and they were still suckling.
Here are some snippets from the two days when the duo were left alone:
It's okay, let's find the rest together.
I got your back, bruh.
Argh, so tired and hungry.
Could they be here?
Where is my fam?
Hmm... Maybe they are back home already?
Rescued and reunited with volunteers' help
Fortunately, they were under the watch of some otter enthusiasts from the Otter Working Group (OWG).
There were three groups of volunteers monitoring the rest of the Bishan family, the pair of pups, any other adult otters near the pair.
By Dec. 28 afternoon, the two stranded siblings were visibly much weaker after starving for more than 40 hours which called for the volunteers to interfere.
The pups were noticeably weaker by mid-morning today, their vocalisation was getting softer due to no food for almost 40 hours. If we miss the timing this morning, the pups would probably be too weak to venture out and may die in holt due to hunger.
The OWG contacted and collaborated with the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) in this mission, known as "Operation Neptune", to bring the lost duo back to the rest of Bishan family.
Acres Deputy Chief Executive, Kalai Vanan, said this operation began at 10.30am on Dec. 28:
OtterWatch contacted Acres after their observations showed that two otter pups had been left behind at Kallang riverside area. We wanted to give more time for the family to find the pups, but was decided that the period of time that the otter pups were left behind for was approaching the 30-hour mark. Fearing that the otters might become weak and potentially drown in the water, Acres and OtterWatch decided to rescue the otter pups and reunite them with the adults.
The operation took a total of about three-and-a-half hours from the moment we set up our initial trap.
However, the pups did not seem to be falling for the trap, so we resorted to using pole nets to catch them on foot. We managed to rescue one and reunite it first to reduce stress, before rescuing the second one. Eventually, both pups were successfully reunite. Acres would like to extend their appreciation to OtterWatch for their tireless efforts observing the movement of the otters to make the operation a successful one.
The first pup was caught and returned to the family first at around 11.30am on Dec. 28, while the second one was reunited with family later at 1.15pm, according to OtterWatch.
Phew! Lesson learnt for the two sleepyheads and perhaps Bishan parents should do a roll call before going out next time.
Top photo courtesy of OtterWatch