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Public urged to fish responsibly after multi-agency effort to free baby otter from fishing hook

Public urged to fish responsibly after multi-agency effort to free baby otter from fishing hook

The injured otter was ensnared by a fishing lure with multiple hooks. (Images: Facebook/Ottercity)

SINGAPORE: Abandoned fishing hooks pose a danger to wildlife and can cause much suffering to animals, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said on Tuesday (Feb 8), adding that people should fish only in permitted areas.

This comes after an otter pup become ensnared by a fishing lure with several hooks last week, prompting an hours-long multi-agency effort to free the animal.

The rescue operation at Jiak Kim Bridge took about five to six hours, said ACRES, adding that the effort also involved people from the otter community, the National Parks Board (NParks) and national water agency PUB.

According to Facebook page Ottercity, the four-month-old pup from the Zouk otter family was injured on Feb 2. 

The community platform for otter enthusiasts in Singapore said the incident was witnessed by otter watcher Yane Kang, who noted that the pup was injured near Jiak Kim Bridge in a no-fishing zone.

“In fact, that entire stretch of Singapore River has high human traffic and is out of bounds to anglers,” said Ottercity.

Ms Kang reported seeing the pup playing with “something colourful” in the river before she heard a “loud scream” and “lots of splashing”. The fishing lure with two treble hooks had snagged onto the otter’s mouth and paws.

A rescue operation was mounted the next morning as the hooks had not dislodged from the otter. The multi-agency rescue, coordinated by Otter Working Group, involved two boats and 25 people.

ACRES told CNA that the initial plan was to separate the pup from its family and catch him. However, this proved too difficult due to its large protective family.

“After several attempts, we managed to momentarily net the pup but this proved futile as the net broke. Thanks to our Otter Working Group counterparts from PUB, we managed to assist the struggling pup in the water to free him from the hook,” said ACRES.

In response to queries from CNA, NParks said the smooth-coated otter pup has since been reunited with its family and observed to be fine. 

"We would like to remind the public to not touch, chase, or corner otters and also not to feed them," NParks' group director for wildlife management Dr Adrian Loo said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The public is encouraged to observe the otters from a distance and not to litter or leave sharp objects in the water, he added. 

Those who see injured or stranded animals, including otters, can call the ACRES hotline at 97837782 for advice or the Animal Response Centre helpline at 1800-476-1600. NParks can also be contacted for animal-related feedback.

According to PUB’s guidelines for fishing, unwanted lines and hooks should be discarded into litter bins.

Fishing is also not permitted at canals, with the exception of designated decks or zones along Geylang River, Kallang River (Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront), as well as the Pang Sua, Pelton and Rochor Canals.

Source: CNA/zl(gs)

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