Did otters eat koi worth $80,000?

A Sentosa hotel and resident may have lost the ornamental fish to the wild mammals

An otter having a meal at the Botanic Gardens' Swan Lake. Late last year, the semi-aquatic mammals were spotted in the Sentosa Cove area.
An otter having a meal at the Botanic Gardens' Swan Lake. Late last year, the semi-aquatic mammals were spotted in the Sentosa Cove area. ST FILE PHOTO

Otters that are being spotted more often in local bodies of water in recent times may have won over many hearts here with their antics.

However, they may have treated themselves to some very expensive meals - courtesy of a resort and a home in Sentosa. They are suspected of having feasted on ornamental koi, reportedly costing more than $80,000, in April this year.

Mr Ben Bousnina, vice-president of resorts at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, did not reveal the exact cost of the koi. He said they went missing at the Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa about the time otters were seen on the island.

The resort has relocated the koi from its pond temporarily.

"As the safety of our guests as well as colleagues is our highest priority, we are working closely with Sentosa Development Corporation to ensure that the otters will not be attracted to the resort," he said.

A report in My Paper last week said that the resort lost about $20,000 worth of koi.

It also reported that a Sentosa Cove resident lost about $64,000 worth of the ornamental fish overnight in April .

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) told The Straits Times it has received feedback on only four occasions from people about otters preying on ornamental fish since the start of last year.

Meanwhile, wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) said it was normal for otters to prey on ornamental fish.

"They can't differentiate wild fish from koi and will go for the easier option," said Acres wildlife manager Kalai Vanan Balakrishnan.

His advice for people with fish ponds in areas with otters about is to either fence the ponds or cover them with wire mesh. They should also not leave leftover food around or feed the otters.

Wild otters are a fairly common sight at the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Pasir Ris Park and the Punggol Waterway, but it was only late last year that they were spotted in Sentosa Cove.

Mr Koh Piak Huat, divisional director of operations at Sentosa Leisure Management, said that while otters are not aggressive, residents are advised to keep their distance.

The semi-aquatic mammals - which can survive in both fresh and sea water - may be expected in some coastal areas.

Hence the island's management is engaging experts to understand the mammals' behaviour.

"We welcome them as part of the island's wildlife," he said, adding that the management will work to ensure the safety of both the otters and guests.

An AVA spokesman said the public should not approach, disturb or feed any wild animals they see. Trapping them is also illegal. The public can contact AVA at 1800-476-1600 to give feedback on wildlife.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline Did otters eat koi worth $80,000?. Subscribe