Singapore’s otters have become our unofficial national mascots, mainly because we find them so darn adorable.
Despite their cuteness, they’ve shown themselves to be no pushovers, as they’re capable of ganging up to fight larger creatures.
That happened to an unfortunate woman reportedly chased by otters at West Coast Park.
An eyewitness warned joggers to be vigilant and look out for otters.
The incident took place at about 6pm on Friday (22 Jul), reported Sin Chew Daily, quoting Singapore’s Shin Min Daily News.
A 48-year-old eyewitness Lu Xiufeng – name transliterated from Chinese – told the paper that she was taking a stroll with her children in West Coast Park.
They found traces of otters near the public toilet area and were happily taking photos when they came across a startling sight — a woman was running from a group of six to seven otters chasing her.
As the woman was being chased, she was also heard screaming, Ms Lu said.
After one to two minutes in hot pursuit, the otters appeared to have caught up with her.
However, Ms Lu didn’t see whether the otters bit her, as the scene was too chaotic.
Some of the otters even ran in their direction, scaring her children and causing them to try to dodge the creatures.
While there were at least 10 people in the vicinity, including children and seniors, nobody dared to help the woman, Ms Lu told Shin Min.
Explaining why, she said the otters’ sharp teeth are “no joke”.
Even if nobody got close, passers-by feared the animals would run towards them at any moment.
If that happens, the elderly wouldn’t be able to run away. Eventually, the otters ran back into the woods, she added.
Ms Lu believes that the woman may have stepped on a baby otter.
This would have caused the protective adult otters to feel threatened and instinctively chase the “offender” away as a form of defence.
That possibility was also brought up when a runner was bitten by otters at the Botanic Gardens last year.
Otter photographers and observers shared that they have, on some occasions, advised runners to keep a distance from the animals or make a detour if feasible.
However, some would ignore them and insist on “speeding” past the otters.
In light of the incident, Ms Lu called on the authorities to warn joggers about otters.
For example, signs could be put up to remind joggers to be vigilant and safety-conscious.
She pointed out that some joggers run too fast and don’t see the otters until it’s too late and can’t stop in time.
She added that if an otter is stepped on, it will instinctively attack and bite.
While the attack on the female jogger was unfortunate, it was not completely unexpected. Any living creature will feel threatened when another animal, several times in size, moves quickly in their direction.
While Singaporeans generally love otters, they’re still considered wild animals. We should tread with caution and bear the National Parks Board (NParks) guidelines in mind.
In the meantime, when jogging outdoors, do be extra careful and look where you step.
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Featured image adapted from Shin Chew Daily by way of Shin Min Daily News.
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