ST forum letter writer suggests shooting otters with rubber bullets so they don't run amok

Hmmmmmstt.

Ashley Tan| May 18, 05:34 PM

Otters are a common sight in Singapore these days, and sightings of the creatures outdoors tend to draw crowds of spectators.

Videos and photos of the animals venturing into urban areas are often circulated on social media as well.

But not everyone is glad that man and wild can co-mingle or that nature is making a small comeback in urban Singapore.

One man here has decided to air his views on the furry critters in a forum letter published on The Straits Times on May 17.

Otters "do not belong in urban environments"

Titled, "Time to rein in Singapore's otter population", the contributor, Ong Junkai, wrote that he believes that otters need to be "better managed" to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

Ong referenced a recent incident on May 14, where ex-Mediacorp actress Jazreel Low saw her fishes and arowana in a pond located at a spa she owned eaten by otters.

Ong said that people often spent a sizeable amount of money to care for and raise their pet koi and other valuable fish, and that it would be "absurd" for them to invest in protecting their properties against otters, which were essentially "wild" animals.

He wrote:

"To suggest that they fence up their water features to guard against otters would be absurd, since there is nothing natural about otters living in urban environments."

Ong added that wild animals can transmit diseases, and "do not belong" in urban environments.

Just because otters' appearances are more lovable as compared to other creatures like wild boars, it does not mean they should be encouraged to enter such urban areas, he said.

"Deterrents" should be implemented

To reduce the occurrence of incidents such as the one with Low, Ong suggested that groups like OtterWatch should put in place "deterrents" to prevent otters from entering urban areas.

Some of his suggestions include using airhorns or "carefully calibrated rubber bullets", non-lethal methods which are used against wild bears in the United States.

Ong also said that by making otters "fear" humans, there would be lesser human-wildlife conflict which would help in the species' conservation.

"Letting otters run amok and wreak havoc in fish ponds around Singapore is not exactly painting them in a good light, especially when otters have been known to kill fish just for sport."

Ong also believes that otters should "be confined" in wild areas "where they truly belong", before pet owners poison them over their dead fish.

You can read the full forum letter here:

The otters that regularly make the news in Singapore need to be better managed.

Conservation is important, but so is minimising human-wildlife conflict.

Wild boars have never been encouraged to enter urban areas, neither should otters be just because they look cute.

Wild animals have the potential to spread zoonotic diseases and do not belong in urban environments.

But we allow otters to roam into urban areas without any form of deterrence.

People who spend millions on their landed properties often keep koi or other valuable fish worth up to many thousands of dollars in their ponds.

To suggest that they fence up their water features to guard against otters would be absurd, since there is nothing natural about otters living in urban environments.

The OtterWatch group should take more proactive action in discouraging otters from entering urban environments. Deterrents such as loud air horns or maybe carefully calibrated rubber bullets could be used.

Such tactics have been employed by people dealing with bears in the United States.

By making otters fear humans, it reduces human-otter conflict and actually helps conserve the species better in the long term.

Letting otters run amok and wreak havoc in fish ponds around Singapore is not exactly painting them in a good light, especially when otters have been known to kill fish just for sport.

In 2017, a French girl was bitten by an otter at Gardens by the Bay.

Otters should be confined to wild areas in Singapore, such as the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, where they truly belong.

This needs to happen quickly, before people who keep fish get frustrated enough to poison otters.

Mixed reactions

Some online commenters have shared similar sentiments with Ong following the incident of the otters consuming Low's pet fishes, to the extent of calling the creatures "pests".

However, several users have also come to the otters' defence by saying the animals are merely following their instincts to catch available prey, and that owners should be safeguarding their pets instead.

Ong's forum letter appears to have garnered some backlash from nature lovers as well who believe such a stance is hypocritical.

There were several exasperated and sarcastic remarks about Ong's letter too, including this gem.

Nature's way of keeping the otter population in check

Ottercity, one of Singapore's otter watch groups, gave an explanation for the numerous occurrences of otters in urban areas recently.

In the past month, one otter family has been spotted at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, wandering around Mustafa, and at a petrol station at Bukit Timah.

Ottercity revealed that there are currently over 90 otters in Singapore.

As opposed to what some might think, the territorial fights between rival families, limited space in waterways, and even accidents between otters and vehicles, help to keep the otter population in check.

The group urged for people to treasure Singapore's biodiversity and co-exist with the country's wildlife.

"Otters are territorial in nature. When two otter families meet, they will fight and there will likely be casualties. There are currently about 90+ otters in Singapore well-scattered over the island. Given the limited waterways and food sources, territorial fights, illness, roadkills, etc, there will be a maximum carrying capacity and it is the nature's way of keeping their numbers in check. Otters are our precious wildlife in Singapore. We should learn to share the space and co-exist with them in harmony."

Top photo from TTSH Nursing / FB