Otters kill over 40 koi & fishes leaving Bukit Timah resident too 'traumatised' to rear fish again

This is the first time this has happened to him in the 20-plus years he has lived there.

Ashley Tan | October 03, 2022, 07:07 PM

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One Bukit Timah resident was shocked and "devastated" after waking up one day to find his pet fishes massacred by what he presumes to be a family of otters.

Yuen Ying Tham has been living on a landed property at Berrima Road in the Bukit Timah area since 2002. The house was built with two ponds as the family has the hobby of rearing koi fish.

The 36-year-old told Mothership that the past 20-odd years have been peaceful, with no unusual incidents of otter invasions or the like.

This only made the discovery of his prized koi and other fishes being nearly wiped out, on the morning of Oct. 2, a rude awakening.

The two ponds previously contained 23 koi — some of which he has reared for more than 15 years — over 20 algae-eating fish, and two albino sucker fish.

Now, Tham is left with one injured koi fish that has lost its pectoral and tail fins, one algae eater, and one albino sucker.

Photo courtesy of Yuen Ying Tham

The ponds were filled with partially chewed out carcasses, some with the heads missing.

Photo courtesy of Yuen Ying Tham

Photo courtesy of Yuen Ying Tham

One koi carcass, in particular, had huge chunks missing from its body.

Photo courtesy of Yuen Ying Tham

"Even my algae eaters were left without heads on the pond perimeter. Otters had trespassed our property and murdered my beloved koi," Tham bemoaned.

The piping system of his ponds was also damaged after the invasion.

Otters are the likely culprits

Tham speculated that his fishes were likely decimated by otters, judging from the extent of the damage and the way the fishes were eaten.

He added that he lives quite near the Singapore Botanic Gardens — which, incidentally, is home to the Zouk otter family — and that he has seen several times the otters roaming around on the road leading to his house.

Nevertheless, he finds the attack "unexpected" as his house is located rather deep among the properties, and is on top of a hill.

"It is quite unexpected that these critters can actually make their way up there."

Nature enthusiast and otter-watcher Bernard Seah confirmed with Mothership that the culprits were likely otters.

However, for the one koi fish that was missing most of its body, Seah shared that he has never seen a fish eaten this way by an otter. Instead, he posited that perhaps the otters had killed this fish, and its carcass was subsequently fed on by other fish.

No longer wishes to rear fish

CCTV cameras installed at the front of the house did not capture any creatures sneaking onto the property, which led Tham to believe that the otters probably entered from the back.

Tham explained that although his house is surrounded by fencing, the otters likely squeezed through the gaps.

When asked if he considers fortifying the fencing around his house to prevent similar incidents in the future, Tham shared that "it is not possible" given the large size and design of the property and the garden, unless major renovation works are carried out.

Since this incident has occurred, Tham also no longer wishes to keep any more koi fish for fear that the otters might return to eat them.

"It is too heartbreaking for us too," he said.

Tham concluded that it is no longer "safe" to continue his hobby of rearing fish.

"I had this hobby close to 30 years now and in one night, it is destroyed. I am too traumatised to keep anymore fish as I feel that Singapore is no longer safe and conducive for hobbyists like us."

Does the otter population need culling?

There have been previous incidents where otters have destroyed pet owners' koi fish.

Even though it is assumed that the otter population is booming in Singapore based on these incidents, National University of Singapore lecturer and biologist N Sivasothi had previously shared with Mothership that the otter population needs no culling as territorial disputes between the various otter families keep their numbers in check.

Previously classified as "Critically Endangered" in Singapore, smooth-coated otters are now listed as "Endangered" locally.

Top photo courtesy of Yuen Ying Tham