Otters spotted on tarmac at Changi Airport, guided out to beach by airside safety team

A spokesman said that otter sightings are a rare occurrence on Changi's premises.
A spokesman said that otter sightings are a rare occurrence on Changi's premises.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK VIDEO/WILSON TAN

SINGAPORE - A group of otters that were spotted on the tarmac at Changi Airport on Tuesday (Nov 14) morning were guided out towards Changi Beach by the airport's airside safety team, a spokesman for the Changi Airport Group told The Straits Times.

"Changi Airport's surveillance system detected a family of otters that made their way into the airside early this morning," said the spokesman. "The airside safety team was activated to guide the otters safely out towards Changi Beach."

She added that there was no disruption to airport operations and said that otter sightings are a rare occurrence on Changi's premises.

"Besides regular wildlife patrols, a surveillance system is in place to prevent and detect foreign object debris, including wildlife," she said.

The spokesman added that safety is a top priority at Changi Airport, and flight operations are halted temporarily whenever any wildlife is detected on the runway so that the safety team can attend to the situation immediately.

The otters were likely seeking shelter from heavy rain, veteran otter watcher Jeffery Teo told The Straits Times on Tuesday.

Mr Teo, who has tracked Singapore's otters for more than five years, told The Straits Times that the otters probably went to the airport as the canals were likely full due to heavy rain on Tuesday morning.


"This family's home range is from Changi, Pasir Ris Park and up till Coney Island," Mr Teo said. "Due to the heavy rain this morning, the canals are likely at very high water levels, hence they managed to get into the airport somehow. They were probably seeking drier shelter from the heavy rain and rush water this morning."

He added that the otters caught on camera are probably from the Pasir Ris family, which has 11 members, including the pup that was recently photographed with a wound from a ring of metal wire.

Mr Teo, who is part of the Otter Working Group, said otter watchers were unsure, judging by the video, whether the injured pup was also on the tarmac. The Otter Working Group is a volunteer group set up in conjunction with several government agencies, including the National Parks Board, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and PUB, last year.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan said it is "highly unlikely" that the otters may appear on the tarmac at night and disrupt flights as they are not nocturnal animals. 

National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who heads OtterWatch, added that otters explore new areas only during an exploratory phase.

"Likely, Changi Airport will act on the gaps the otters squeezed through," he said. "The otters have other areas to utilise and are not being forced into the airport."