S'porean's photo of Bishan otter dragging stunned & reluctant pup makes it to international award finals

Otter-ly relatable.

Fiona Tan | September 04, 2021, 10:39 PM

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A photo of a shell-shocked otter pup being dragged by the scruff of its neck by an adult otter has entered a Singaporean wildlife photographer into the Comedy Wildlife Photography Award finals.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards aim to "widen understanding and engagement with global conservation" by grabbing people's attention with comedic photographs like Teo's.

Teo's picture, along with the other finalists', will be showcased at The Photography Show in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Here's the nominated work:

Image from c.k.teo Photojournal/Facebook.

One of the public's favourite

The moment was captured by 46-year-old Teo Chee Kee, who mainly photographs otters, in addition to other wildlife and landscapes.

Accompanying the photo was the cheeky caption: "What otter mommy does when their babies refuse to go school."

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Teo Chee Kee (@c.k.teo)

Teo's picture was featured alongside the photos from eight other Comedy Wildlife Photography Award finalists in an Instagram post by BBC.

Scrolling through the comments, Teo's picture seems to be a favourite among the public.

Other favourites from BBC's Instagram post include:

"I Guess Summer's Over" by John Speirs

Image by John Speirs from Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards website.

"The Baboon Who Feels Like A Tenor" by Clemence Guinard

Image by Clemence Guinard from Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards website.

"Monday Morning Mood" by Andrew Mayes

Image by Andrew Mayes from Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards website.

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A post shared by BBC News (@bbcnews)

Teo will be up against 41 others for the top spot, which will be decided by a panel of 14 judges.

The results will be revealed on Oct. 22.

"Bring smiles to people"

Speaking to Mothership, Teo revealed that the photograph was taken at Kallang River around the end of 2020.

He was notified in July 2021, when his photograph was selected for the second round on the competition, and once more in Aug. 2021, when his photograph was selected to be in the finals.

Upon learning that he was through to the final round, Teo said he was thrilled.

Teo, however, said that this was not simply because he had entered the finals in an international competition, but it was also the ability to bring joy to people and make them smile.

"I was thrilled. Not just because it is satisfying to be a finalist in an international competition, but also because this is one that feature[s] photos that bring smiles to people."

Pup was learning how to swim

Teo's caption was subsequently edited to include: "Corrected: that wasn't mommy. It was another member of the family."

This was after an otter enthusiast, who was more familiar with gendering the mammal, had corrected Teo.

Here's another angle of the photo:

Image from c.k.teo Photojournal/Facebook.

According to Teo, the otters pictured were from the Bishan otter family.

The photographer explained that he was capturing a regular routine in otter pup "swim school".

This is when adult otters "bite" pups on the scruff of their necks to carry them back to the starting point.

Teo said that this served as practice for the young otter, who was just beginning to learn how to swim.

Made to swim laps repeatedly, this perhaps explains the pup's exasperated/shocked/reluctant/helpless expression.

Started photography journey with birds

The expressive facial expression of otters, like the pup's, was what made Teo decide to specialise his photography on.

Teo, however, did not always photograph otters.

He had initially started his photography journey with birds, but later realised that he could better capture the expressions of mammals than birds.

Unlike other countries, there are "not many wild mammals which are easy to spot" in Singapore, said Teo.

As such, otters "naturally" became his choice of photography subject.

If you want to vote for Teo, there is a separate category called the Affinity Photo People's Choice Award, which members of the public can participate in.

Votes will be cast by clicking on your favourite image, and submitting your email.

More otter stories:

Top image from c.k.teo Photojournal/Facebook