SINGAPORE: A trip to the Gardens by the Bay took an awful turn for a French family on Saturday (Dec 30) when an otter attacked their 5-year-old girl, leaving her with a bleeding foot.
The father of the family, Mr Julien le Tourneur D'Ison, said they had arrived at the attraction at 12.15pm and were approaching a little bridge at Satay by the Bay when they saw a “bunch of tourists really excited by a bunch of otters swimming back and forth”.
“We saw a bunch of otters swimming towards us. We were about 1 metre away and an otter jumped out and bit my daughter’s foot,” said Mr Le Tourneur.
The 45-year-old, who was also there with his wife and two other children – a 6-year-old boy and 5-month-old baby - described the incident as “really unlucky”.
The little girl who was bitten, Tess, was left screaming and crying. Her foot “bled for about five minutes”, he said.
Mr Le Tourneur also said his daughter’s screams attracted the attention of scores of people who came forth to offer help. “A lot of people came from the food court with a first aid kit,” he said.
The family rushed Tess to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in a taxi.
“An X-ray showed that fortunately the teeth did not touch her bone but the wound is deep enough that they have to perform a little surgery,” Mr Le Tourneur told Channel NewsAsia.
Tess had local anaesthesia administered and doctors in the emergency room cleaned up her wound.
Reflecting on the incident, Mr Le Tourneur said “it was too many people massing around” the animals. “The otters must have been scared or nervous with so many people pulling out their cameras.”
He suggested fencing up more of the area around the bridge, as otters known to inhabit the area are “wild animals” after all.
Mr Le Tourneur, who works in marketing for digital maps company HERE Technologies, was based in Singapore for two years, but has since relocated to Berlin. The otter attack was an “unfortunate start” to a two-week holiday, he said.
“The Gardens by the Bay is such a lovely place. I would recommend anyone to visit,” stressed Mr Le Tourneur.
“But if you see an otter swimming towards you, go the other way.”
GARDENS BY THE BAY TO PUT UP ADDITIONAL WARNING SIGNS
In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, a spokesperson for Gardens by the Bay said following the attack, its visitor services staff helped the family by helping them get a taxi to the nearest hospital.
It added that its staff will put up additional signage to remind visitors not to touch the otters.
"Otters are often spotted at Gardens by the Bay along the promenade area facing Marina Bay. While they may appear tame, they are nonetheless wild animals and may react if visitors get too close," Gardens by the Bay said. "As such, there is signage along the promenade to advise visitors not to approach them, and instead observe them from a distance."
"TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT": ACRES
Otter enthusiast Goh Mei Woon, who was in the area at the time, but did not witness the incident, said she noticed that there were "quite a lot of people" standing on the platform looking at the otters.
"I was a bit concerned that people were too near (the otters). The otters have occasionally jumped up on the platform. I was telling people to keep a distance as we don't want anything to happen to the little ones," she said.
She has been watching otters since April and has only seen an otter jump onto the platform once. "Very rarely do they even come up."
The Animal Concerns and Research Education Society (ACRES) said the incident appeared to have occurred due to "stress from the curious crowd approaching the otter family with pups - too close for comfort".
"For any wildlife including otters, it is important to learn wildlife etiquette and appreciate from a distance," its deputy chief executive Anbarasi Boopa told Channel NewsAsia. "Wild animals, just like us, will defend themselves and their family - particularly in this case, there were pups - if they feel threatened or cornered, and this has resulted in this unfortunate incident."
ACRES urged members of the public to keep a distance when encountering wildlife in their habitats. They should not feed the wildlife as well.