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Teacher's pet? Otters spotted at NUS

This is the first time otters have been sighted at the National University of Singapore, according to Biological Sciences lecturer Sivasothi N.  

SINGAPORE: Teaching assistant Kenneth Neo was fixing up an eco car at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Engineering Faculty on Monday morning (Feb 13) when he spotted some unusual visitors.

There was a group of otters wandering outside Block E1A at about 11am. 

"I was very surprised," Mr Neo told Channel NewsAsia. "My workshop is quite far away from the main road. The surroundings are so urbanised; (there are) not so many swampy areas. And NUS is quite far away from the coastal side (of Singapore)." 

According to Mr Neo, the four otters crossed "quite a few roads" before ending up at the university's Engineering Faculty, and eventually left via Clementi Road. 


While the cute quartet was still scurrying around, Mr Neo quickly asked his colleague to take a look while he took a video. 

"It's really a rare sight. I've never really seen them live before with my own eyes," Mr Neo said, adding that in his five years working at NUS, he has not seen any signs of wildlife. 

"I just hope they are doing well and find their way back to wherever they came from." 

Mr Sivasothi N, who runs the OtterWatch group which consolidates otter sightings in Singapore, told Channel NewsAsia this is the first time otters have been spotted at the university. The closest previous sightings have been at Kent Ridge Park and Pasir Panjang, he said. 

The senior lecturer at NUS' Department of Biological Sciences said he believes the furry creatures turned up at the university as they were searching for new habitats.

"All otters have to do this at some time. It is just a matter of whether they were seen," he said, adding that moving through urban habitats can be "life-threatening" for the otters as they could meet with traffic accidents, or be attacked by animals such as pet dogs. 

Besides otters, Mr Sivasothi added that animals such as pangolins, civets and long-tailed macaques have been spotted in urban areas as well, as they are looking for habitats suitable for living. 

"They may be individuals prompted by maturation to search for mates or new unoccupied habitats, or individuals and groups forced out by competition, or driven out due to disturbances to their original homes such as development," he said. 

If members of the public see otters moving around, Mr Sivasothi said it would be best to watch from a distance, enjoy the sightings and report it to the OtterWatch Facebook group.

"I do hope the otters found their way back safely to more suitable habitats. I would be happy if they returned after we naturalise the Sungei Pandan Kechil - the canal which runs between AYE and NUS and drains past West Coast Park to the sea - the way Bishan canal was naturalised," he said.