Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Singapore's celebrity urban otter family

By Rebecca Bailey
BBC News, Singapore

5 July 2016 

They're known as the Bishan 10 - and they're possibly Marina Bay's most famous residents.

They've starred in a David Attenborough documentary, and their affairs frequently make the local news. Facebook groups are dedicated to them, andacademics study them.

They're a family of ten smooth-coated otters, and like many celebrities, they exude an aura of mystery, occasionally making an appearance to the delight of their many local fans. Like true stars though, when they do show their faces, they're extremely comfortable in front of the camera.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these urban otters don't seem to mind the crowds of humans that inevitably gather to watch them frolic around in the water, or chomp their way through an unfortunate fish's head.

(On which subject, Singaporean otters seem to have expensive tastes - local media reported back in February that otters were suspected of having eaten more than $80,000 worth of ornamental koi carp on Sentosa, a resort island just off Singapore.)

It's difficult to imagine that in the 1970s smooth-coated otters were thought to have vanished from Singapore.

Now their resurging numbers are seen as a sign that the island's waterways are becoming cleaner, and last week "Ottie the Otter" became the official mascot of an island-wide conservation movement backed by the government.

"The otter is a particularly pertinent reminder of the need to continue preserving our environment so that we do not lose these beautiful creatures again," said a spokesman at the project launch.

Fittingly, the 13th International Otter Congress is taking place in Singapore this week, with the theme Otters and People.

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