2014 has been an otter-ific year for Singapore! Wild otters have been reappearing on our island. Meanwhile, Wildlife Reserves Singapore welcomed the birth of a pair of giant river otter twins!
But what are are otters? Where do they eat?
Otters come from a group of mammals known as mustelids. Most have anal glands that give off a musty smell, hence their names. There are 13 otter species and here are 4 you ought to know!
The smallest otter of all, the oriental small-clawed otter has become a popular face at the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari. As with most otters, it is a social and intelligent animal. It is also one of the two otter species found in Singapore! Weighing in at 6 kilograms, it usually feeds on shellfish and crustaceans in Singapore.
Meet the other otter species found in Singapore, the smooth otter. It has been making splashes in recent headlines with its sudden reappearances. Much larger than the small-clawed otters, it grows up to 11kilograms! Some scientists believe that it has moved to Singapore to avoid the increasing construction projects in Johor, Malaysia. It prefers feeding on fish rather than shellfish.
Reaching a length of 1.7 metres, the giant river otter is the largest otter species. Despite its cute appearance, the giant river otter is a fearsome hunter. Nicknamed the ‘river wolf’, it is known to hunt piranhas, snakes and even caimans!
Here at River Safari, our giant river otter family has expanded recently. Carlos and Carmen recently welcomed a pair of healthy twins. Giant otters parents teach their pups how to swim by (literally) throwing them into the deep end of the pool. Don’t be alarmed if you see that happens. That’s just part of their hard knock lives!
After a video clip showing sea otters holding hand went viral, sea otters have become probably the most recognized otter on the internet. Sea otters spend most of their lives in the ocean and hold hands to stay together.
The sea otter is known to crack shellfishes, crabs and sea urchins using a favourite rock it carries around. Its waterproof fur not only keeps its warm and dry, it traps air bubbles that allow it to float!
Similar to the giant otter, human demand for their fur pelt have caused it to almost go extinct. Thankfully, both the giant river otter and sea otter are now protected species.
The main threat that otters face today is environmental degradation. Let’s keep our water channels clean and free of litter and pollutants. Perhaps we’ll be seeing even more otters in our parks and shores soon!