What are they?
The Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) is the largest otter in Southeast Asia, and is named after its velvety smooth coat. It is a mammal, often spotted in our mangroves, mudflats and coastal areas, where it forages for clams, fish, and other small creatures. Highly social and using smells and calls to communicate, these otters have webbed paws that are highly adapted for swimming. They are playful creatures, and like to swim in a pack of four to twelve while chasing after fish.
A social creature, the otter lives either in pairs or in family groups. Babies are born in a litter of up to five in a den by the riverbank and stay with the parent for some time.
Distribution & Habitat
While listed as critically endangered in Singapore, they are most regularly seen at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and have been seen there since 1990s. Sightings have been reported increasingly often over the years in Pulau Ubin, Western Catchment Area and Changi as well. There have been recent sightings in many other places, some where they are definitely resident (e.g. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park) and others where they may only have been passing by (e.g. Singapore Botanic Gardens).
Did you know?
Did you know that this creature can stay underwater for up to eight minutes in a single breath? This allows it to hunt successfully for fish, frogs, crabs and turtles.
An otter couple at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park was expanded to a family of five in April 2015 as the female otter gave birth to the 'SG50 triplets'.
What to do when I encounter otters?
- DO NOT touch, chase or corner the otters. Observe them from a distance. Going too close to the otters may frighten them.
- DO NOT talk loudly and do not use flash photography. Noise and light may scare and provoke the otters.
- DO NOT feed the otters. The otters have their own food in the environment and their natural eating habits keep the ecosystem healthy.
- DO NOT litter or leave sharp objects in the water. Clean and safe waterways filled with fish and aquatic life make good habitats for the otters to frolic and feed in.
- DO keep your dog on a tight leash. Your dog might chase the otters and frighten them.