Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Singapore otters a hit overseas

Source Website: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/singapore-otters-hit-overseas
By Nur Syahindah Ishak, The New Paper, 14 January 2019 at 06:00 am


Otters impressing the crowds at Gardens by the Bay.
PHOTO: Otters impressing the crowds at Gardens by the Bay. Fans across the globe ask interest groups where they can see the creatures when they visit Singapore.
PHOTO: STEFANO UNTERTHINER
Picture posted by Nur Syahindah Ishak, The New Paper on 14 January 2019 at 06:00 am

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https://www.tnp.sg/sites/default/files/styles/rl780/public/articles/2019/01/14/01_sun-2018-01-23-231326-4-1.jpg?itok=TRtymais
https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/singapore-otters-hit-overseas



National Geographic photographer Stefano Unterthiner, 48, from Italy has been to more than 30 countries and photographed exotic wildlife such as the Komodo dragon, European bison and brown bear.

When he learnt about Singapore's Bishan otters, he flew here in January last year for over three weeks.

He is not the only foreigner to be intrigued by our otters.

Otter groups here told The New Paper that they get messages from fans across the globe asking where to find the animals if they were to visit Singapore.



National Geographic photographer Stefano Unterthiner, 48, from Italy has been to more than 30 countries and photographed exotic wildlife such as the Komodo dragon, European bison and brown bear.
PHOTO: National Geographic photographer Stefano Unterthiner, 48, from Italy has been to more than 30 countries and photographed exotic wildlife such as the Komodo dragon, European bison and brown bear.
Picture from Stefano Unterthiner website

https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-5w4UCGH7QU8/XD3liAwFL2I/AAAAAAAAsfM/TcCfqtFCSYg3d4q1F7Q5I3ZV2-6jY9zZgCLcBGAs/s1600/Stefano.jpg
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_xZ4dcKfDreg/SQ8tFeD222I/AAAAAAAAAls/r9F6XCWEmcs/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/Stefano.bmp
http://bitacoranaturae.blogspot.com/2008/11/fotografa-de-naturaleza-stefano.html



There are two species of otters here - the smooth-coated and the small-clawed otters.

The smooth-coated ones grow up to about a metre long and weigh about 11kg. They are the more common ones and have been spotted since the 90s in places such as Sungei Buloh, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Gardens by the Bay.



The smooth-coated ones grow up to about a metre long and weigh about 11kg.
PHOTO: The smooth-coated ones grow up to about a metre long and weigh about 11kg. They are the more common ones and have been spotted since the 90s in places such as Sungei Buloh, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Gardens by the Bay.
Picture posted by Asian Geographic Magazines

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-b4NTc83c9aA/XD3ljHtSOQI/AAAAAAAAsfc/pVMndmMSGecgegD_CW0NCUwO9gDHxnaqACLcBGAs/s1600/otter-anatomy.jpg
http://staging.uw360.asia/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/otter-anatomy.jpg
https://www.uw360.asia/indian-smooth-coated-otters-singapore/



Small-clawed otters weigh around 5kg each and have been seen on offshore islands such as Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin in recent decades.



Small-clawed otters weigh around 5kg each and have been seen on offshore islands such as Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin in recent decades.
PHOTO: Small-clawed otters weigh around 5kg each and have been seen on offshore islands such as Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin in recent decades.
Credit: K. Hurst
Picture posted by RZSS Blog, The Royal Zoological Society Of Scotland on 20 October 2010 - Otters are very playful

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https://rzss.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/oriental-small-clawed-otter_00111.jpg
https://rzss.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/when-elena-met-ray-the-patter-of-tiny-paws%e2%80%a6/



Otters have been reported in the media attacking fish ponds in Sentosa Cove or on the tarmac at Changi Airport.

Mr Unterthiner has been a regular contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine for the past decade. He told TNP in an e-mail interview that he had always dreamt of working with otters.



The otters are becoming synonymous with Singapore
PHOTO: The otters are becoming synonymous with Singapore
PHOTO: STEFANO UNTERTHINER
Picture posted by Nur Syahindah Ishak, The New Paper on 14 January 2019 at 06:00 am

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https://www.tnp.sg/sites/default/files/styles/image_embed/public/05_sun-2018-01-26-145109-6-1.jpg?itok=GG6P6E7C
https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/singapore-otters-hit-overseas



He said: "My work is telling the life stories of animals, and I am always looking for new and interesting stories... The return of otters in Singapore is an amazing example of co-habitation between people and wildlife.

"It is a positive story to tell and share, full of hope. I never expected to do it in the heart of a metropolis."

Mr Unterthiner went out twice a day, in the early morning and late afternoon, for 21 consecutive days to follow the otters. He mainly photographed the ones in Bishan.

He cycled more than 300km and rarely took a break.



Mr Unterthiner went out twice a day, in the early morning and late afternoon, for 21 consecutive days to follow the otters.
PHOTO: Mr Unterthiner went out twice a day, in the early morning and late afternoon, for 21 consecutive days to follow the otters. He mainly photographed the ones in Bishan.
Photo by The Straits Times

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http://www.asiaone.com/sites/default/files/styles/700x500/public/original_images/Jan2019/190114_otters_st_0.jpg?itok=Y61qk-qz
http://www.asiaone.com/singapore/singapore-otters-hit-overseas



"I was totally exhausted when I finished," he said.

Mr Unterthiner shot about 10,000 images of the otters and saved about 4,500 after editing.

Some of the photos can be seen in the online version of this TNP article and were published in French nature magazine Terre Sauvage on Jan 2.

Mr Unterthiner spent months planning the trip and received help from Ottercity and OtterWatch, a platform that consolidates otter sightings in Singapore since 2009.



Mr Stefano Unterthiner shot about 10,000 images of the otters and saved about 4,500 after editing.
PHOTO: Mr Stefano Unterthiner shot about 10,000 images of the otters and saved about 4,500 after editing.
PHOTO: STEFANO UNTERTHINER
Picture posted by Nur Syahindah Ishak, The New Paper on 14 January 2019 at 06:00 am

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-w5iW7ld8wNY/XD3lgJHRjFI/AAAAAAAAseo/S2VC3hieJZgxiJorufXx92V5w0Uhbje4ACLcBGAs/s1600/06_sun-2018-01-27-203145-3.jpg
https://www.tnp.sg/sites/default/files/styles/image_embed/public/06_sun-2018-01-27-203145-3.jpg?itok=gQWjRZN5
https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/singapore-otters-hit-overseas



In July 2016, the otters were greeted by researchers and scientists from around the world when Singapore hosted the 13th International Otter Congress.

Veteran otter watcher and founder of Ottercity, Mr Jeffrey Teo, 47, told TNP: "The otters represent the biodiversity success that Singapore has developed over the years, and many people are interested to see them for themselves."

Ottercity was created last June as a platform to share original collections of otter stories, pictures and videos in Singapore. It has more than 9,000 Facebook followers.

OtterWatch has over 40,000 Facebook followers, with fans from Ireland, Italy and Russia.



Veteran otter watcher and founder of Ottercity, Mr Jeffrey Teo, 47.
PHOTO: Veteran otter watcher and founder of Ottercity, Mr Jeffrey Teo, 47, told TNP: "The otters represent the biodiversity success that Singapore has developed over the years, and many people are interested to see them for themselves."
Photograph credit: Jeffrey Teo, founder of Ottercity
Picture posted by Joshua Parfitt on  07 February 2018 - A snap of Singaporeans pause to photograph a Bishan 10 otter-crossing near Marina Bay.

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https://imgs.mongabay.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2018/02/07071417/otters6.png
https://news.mongabay.com/2018/02/a-tale-of-two-otters-settling-in-singapore-suffering-in-china/



Marina otters move to Singapore River after losing their original home to rival Bishan family.
PHOTO: Marina otters move to Singapore River after losing their original home to rival Bishan family.
According to OtterWatch, things have not been smooth sailing for the Marina otter family since they made Marina Reservoir their home in 2013.
Picture posted by OtterWatch, facebook on 10 April 2017 @ 06:11 pm

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https://www.facebook.com/OtterWatch/photos/a.591768237562395/1474688329270377/?type=3&theater
https://mothership.sg/2017/04/marina-otters-move-to-singapore-river-after-losing-their-original-home-to-rival-bishan-family/



Mr Teo added Ottercity gains about 1,000 new followers every month and receives messages from overseas fans daily.

Some come from countries such as Japan, Britain, Australia, Taiwan and the US.

Mr Teo said: "They usually ask how and where they can find the otters if they were to come to Singapore."

PHENOMENON
National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who heads the OtterWatch group, told TNP:

"The otters are gaining so much recognition worldwide because it is an unusual phenomenon to see these wildlife creatures thriving in an urban city like Singapore.

"Many people are intrigued to see these otters roaming around with Marina Bay as the backdrop."

He added the Singapore otters are easier to track and spot compared with otters overseas.



National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, heads the OtterWatch group.
PHOTO: National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who heads the OtterWatch group, told TNP: "The otters are gaining so much recognition worldwide because it is an unusual phenomenon to see these wildlife creatures thriving in an urban city like Singapore."
In a Facebook video shared by Fast Snail, the pups, estimated to be about 11/2 months old, are seen frolicking in the water under the watchful eye of their famous family members, the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park otters. Fast Snail said the otters often roam around in Kallang Basin and Marina Bay.
PHOTO: NICK SOO/FAST SNAIL
Picture posted by Nurulnadiah Md Noh, The Straits Times on 13 February 2016 at 5:00 am SGT

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https://www.straitstimes.com/sites/default/files/articles/2016/02/13/st_20160213_xotter_20620391.jpg
https://www.topsimages.com/images/otter-freshwater-ecosystem-38.html



Mr Sivasothi said the otters gained popularity in 2014 when they were spotted in the Marina Bay area and then Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan made a blog post about it.

"It is really heart-warming to see locals and even people from overseas appreciating these otters," he added.

Assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School, Dr Mansur Khamitov, said the international coverage should not be discounted.

It should be capitalised on as it represents a rather compelling branding opportunity in the spirit of the Uniquely Singapore campaign.

He told TNP: "It is important to acknowledge the potential extent of uniqueness of relying on wildlife otters as a branding tactic remains an open question.



Mr Sivasothi said the otters gained popularity in 2014 when they were spotted in the Marina Bay area and then Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan made a blog post about it.
PHOTO: Mr Sivasothi said the otters gained popularity in 2014 when they were spotted in the Marina Bay area and then Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan made a blog post about it.
"It is really heart-warming to see locals and even people from overseas appreciating these otters," he added.
Picture from Francis Yap Nature Photography - A family of Smooth-coated Otters that has made their home at Bishan Park.
https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-V7HefebKYCM/XD3ljrSAb4I/AAAAAAAAsfk/wtmDtTejGQ4NT2RFFkN0Ivx7cvnuUT2DQCLcBGAs/s1600/smooth-coated-otters-150421-120eos1d-fy1x7402.jpg
https://fryap.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/smooth-coated-otters-150421-120eos1d-fy1x7402.jpg
https://fryap.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/an-evening-with-the-bishan-otter-family/#jp-carousel-2897



"Particularly given the fact that otters are found pretty much all over the world."

He said organisations have successfully relied on animal mascots and characters in their communications for hundreds of years and the otters can be turned into Singapore's mascot to attract more tourists.

Furthermore, the juxtaposition between the wildlife mammals and Singapore's urban city portrays a unique visualisation of the country that foreigners would be intrigued by.

His colleague, business lecturer Wong King Yin, added: "Whether it is a wise move for Singapore to take advantage of the otters' publicity depends on whether the otters can help deliver a brand image and message that the Singapore brand intends to build and convey."

National icon? Not worthy of status yet



Besides romping around, smooth-coated otters are known to engage in ‘group rubbings’, partly to clean their furry coats and also to strengthen family bonds.
PHOTO:Besides romping around, smooth-coated otters are known to engage in ‘group rubbings’, partly to clean their furry coats and also to strengthen family bonds.© 123rf.com
Picture posted by Asian Geographic Magazines

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http://staging.uw360.asia/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/34999431_xxl.jpg
https://www.uw360.asia/indian-smooth-coated-otters-singapore/



With the otters getting so much attention locally and globally, should they be part of Singapore's national identity or even replace Ah Meng as the face of the Singapore Zoo?

Maybe not, said industry players.

Senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Dr Michael Chiam, told The New Paper that as an urbanised city, to promote too much of Singapore's wildlife might not represent us well.

He said: "If we want to pick something to represent our national identity, it is best to pick something that represents the nation and that local citizens can associate with."

He added that tourists would expect to see the otters all the time when they visit Singapore, but the animals are free-roaming creatures - they may or may not appear.



He added that tourists would expect to see the otters all the time when they visit Singapore, but the animals are free-roaming creatures - they may or may not appear.
PHOTO: He added that tourists would expect to see the otters all the time when they visit Singapore, but the animals are free-roaming creatures - they may or may not appear.
Asian short clawed otter family
Picture posted by Nazmul31 - Asian short clawed otter family : Otters

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https://i.redd.it/3sz48bv9aekz.jpg
https://www.reddit.com/r/Otters/comments/6yl76b/asian_short_clawed_otter_family/



He said: "It is difficult to showcase these animals to tourists at all times, unlike Ah Meng at the zoo, which is always at the same place and accessible to everyone."

Dr Wong King Yin, business lecturer at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School, felt it might be a good idea to make the otters a special ambassador for Singapore as they enrich visitors' experiences and locals' daily lives.

She said: "Doing so could also test the water to check how the markets respond to this new face. And only if the markets like it, then the otters could go further in representing the Singapore brand."

Mr Oliver Chong, executive director of communications and marketing capability at Singapore Tourism Board, told TNP it was happy the otters have gained international attention.



Dr Wong King Yin, business lecturer at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School, felt it might be a good idea to make the otters a special ambassador for Singapore as they enrich visitors' experiences and locals' daily lives.
PHOTO: Dr Wong King Yin, business lecturer at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School, felt it might be a good idea to make the otters a special ambassador for Singapore as they enrich visitors' experiences and locals' daily lives.
Picture posted by Asian Geographic Magazines

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https://www.uw360.asia/staging/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/221964_xl-1-1024x683.jpg
https://www.uw360.asia/indian-smooth-coated-otters-singapore/



He said: "It is our hope that the spotlight cast on the otters will also lead visitors to explore and discover another side of Singapore that is perhaps lesser known - its rich biodiversity and abundance of natural attractions such as the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Coney Island Park and Pulau Semakau."

Student Muhammad Hadi Zainal, 21, has read many articles about the otters in Punggol and Yishun Dam.

He said: "Although I like the otters, I do not think they deserve to be a national icon because unlike Ah Meng or even the Merlion, the otters do not have a story to tell and they have not contributed significantly enough to Singapore's history."



Mr Oliver Chong, executive director of communications and marketing capability at Singapore Tourism Board, told TNP it was happy the otters have gained international attention.
PHOTO: Mr Oliver Chong, executive director of communications and marketing capability at Singapore Tourism Board, told TNP it was happy the otters have gained international attention.
He said: "It is our hope that the spotlight cast on the otters will also lead visitors to explore and discover another side of Singapore that is perhaps lesser known - its rich biodiversity and abundance of natural attractions such as the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Coney Island Park and Pulau Semakau."
Picture posted by TheRealCharlo on 11 January 2019
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https://www.reddit.com/r/Otters/comments/aesz5e/baby_otter_in_full_sprint/



Student Muhammad Hadi Zainal, 21, has read many articles about the otters in Punggol and Yishun Dam.
PHOTO: Student Muhammad Hadi Zainal, 21, has read many articles about the otters in Punggol and Yishun Dam.
He said: "Although I like the otters, I do not think they deserve to be a national icon because unlike Ah Meng or even the Merlion, the otters do not have a story to tell and they have not contributed significantly enough to Singapore's history."
Picture posted by Mclovin2458 on 05 January 2019
https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2gkJfuzkYxI/XD3liZHBLlI/AAAAAAAAsfQ/kvkJemzmGCksJqZdqNx7Mor9cpeq5KhCwCLcBGAs/s1600/a87qw42pxi821.jpg
https://preview.redd.it/a87qw42pxi821.jpg?width=960&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=5a3b1f68a9a7e22759cc75485b82c50dfe1f39a4
https://www.reddit.com/r/Otters/comments/acq8j1/ufo_unidentified_flying_otter/



Ms Emily Khor, 33, an administrative staff member, felt it would be a nice change to see the otters representing Singapore.

She said: "Since they are getting a lot of attention, why not? People overseas recognise the otters and they will associate them with Singapore so I feel it would be smart to take advantage of the publicity they are getting to promote our country."



Ms Emily Khor, 33, an administrative staff member, felt it would be a nice change to see the otters representing Singapore.
PHOTO: Ms Emily Khor, 33, an administrative staff member, felt it would be a nice change to see the otters representing Singapore.
She said: "Since they are getting a lot of attention, why not? People overseas recognise the otters and they will associate them with Singapore so I feel it would be smart to take advantage of the publicity they are getting to promote our country."
Picture posted by Mothership.SG on 26 July 2018 at 05:20 - Bishan otter family photo wins competition judged by Nat Geo photographers. Over 7,000 entries were received from people from all walks of life.
https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Kso0VURszv4/XD3lheDj1_I/AAAAAAAAsfA/3ZDO9Rx6tEMAVO-ZOeDL-LOehTy6B37IwCLcBGAs/s1600/26237e71ebda0e50495fe469e1f10c98.jpg
https://d5qni3cga7giw.cloudfront.net/201807/24/26237e71ebda0e50495fe469e1f10c98.jpg
https://news.nestia.com/detail/Bishan-otter-family-photo-wins-competition-judged-by-Nat-Geo-photographers/283191


By Nur Syahindah Ishak, The New Paper, 14 January 2019 at 06:00 am
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now




Other Wildlife Attraction Stories in Singapore

Otters surprise runners at Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, posted on Wednesday, 12 December 2018
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https://veryfatoldman.blogspot.com/2018/12/otters-surprise-runners-at-standard.html



Bishan otters witness British couple's wedding proposal, posted on Thursday, 22 November 2018
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Baby boom at wildlife attractions here, posted on Thursday, 18 December 2014
Baby boom at wildlife attractions here, posted on Thursday, 18 December 2014
https://veryfatoldman.blogspot.com/2014/12/baby-boom-at-wildlife-attractions-here.html




Reference
[1] Nur Syahindah Ishak, The New Paper, Singapore otters a hit overseas, posted on 14 January 2019 at 06:00 am, https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/singapore-otters-hit-overseas


Links