Watching, learning about Bishan otters

Finance executive Ng Soon Lee, 48, and retiree Patrick Ng, 63, taking photos of the Bishan family of otters near Marina South Pier yesterday morning.
Finance executive Ng Soon Lee, 48, and retiree Patrick Ng, 63, taking photos of the Bishan family of otters near Marina South Pier yesterday morning.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Wildlife enthusiast Bernard Seah was at the Marina Bay area yesterday before the sun rose. His mission? Lead an otter-watching event organised for the public.

At 7.10am, hoping that his targets would not move too far, he got a Nature Society (Singapore) volunteer to tell a WhatsApp group to meet at Marina South Pier.

Soon, almost 20 people, some on foot and others on bicycles and other personal mobility devices, arrived excitedly, looking out for a family of otters that used to live in Bishan.

For the next couple of hours, they followed the 11 otters as they scampered and swam around Marina South Pier, up towards the Marina Barrage and Gardens by the Bay.

Organised by the Nature Society (Singapore) for the first time, the Fun With Otters At Marina Bay-Kallang River event saw Mr Seah, 48, sharing his knowledge and passion for these animals.

"I have been a wildlife enthusiast for years, but it was when I got into digital photography in 2011 that my passion went up a couple of notches," said the professional emcee, who also volunteers with the National Parks Board and runs a Facebook photography page.

He spent the morning talking to the group, sharing facts like why the otters are called the "Bishan family", and the distance one should keep when approaching them.

The Bishan family otters first established themselves in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, and moved to the Marina Bay area in late 2015 after "kicking out" the otters originally living there.

One of the participants at yesterday's event was yoga instructor Marian Ang, who was with her nine-year-old daughter Trinity and closely watching the mammals using a pair of binoculars.

"I have seen otter families before, but it was only for a few seconds. This is the first time I am able to follow a group," said Ms Ang, 39. "It's so nice to be able to get so near to them, and learn from Bernard what to do."

Said a Nature Society spokesman: "Otters have been in the news, yet we haven't got around to organising an event following them. So it's about time we did this."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Watching, learning about Bishan otters'. Print Edition | Subscribe