Fri 04 Sep 2020: 8.00pm – Woo Chee Yoong shares tales of otters at Kuala Selangor Nature Park

I am really glad to be hosting our Malaysian otter colleague Woo Chee Yoong from Malaysian Nature Society who studies the otters at Kuala Selangor Nature Park. It’s where I first went to see otters in the wild in the early 90’s, and this is still a very important site today.

It’s exciting to be able to showcase otters researchers in Asia. My otter students Tina Liow and Anusha Shivram helped set this up and they get to know Chee Yoong and Annabel Pianzin in the process.

They are keen to visit Kuala Selangor now and we can’t wait to visit once we can.

This is the 4th talk on otters – the third was by Annabel Pianzin from Sabah, while the first two were of otters in Singapore.

Register to join us on Zoom on Fri 4th September 2020: 8.00pm.
WCY Otter Talk Poster Final

Sat 11 Jul 2020: 11.00am – Annabel Pianzin on “Habitat Choices of Wild Otters in an Oil Palm Dominated Forests in Sabah”

Little is know about the distribution and habitat choice of of wild otters in Sabah, especially in altered forests and oil palm plantations. This information would facilitate wildlife managers in advising managers and owners of plantations about the value of preserving strips of riparian buffers within streams in this landscape.

Such refugia will be critical for buffering the impact of altered landscapes on wild otters and other animals of aquatic ecosystems. So Annabel Pianzin, a Master’s student from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah set out to figure out exactly that!

In the second talk of the series, the Otter Working Group Singapore & IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group are extremely delighted to host Annabel in this Zoom session chaired by N. Sivasothi aka Otterman from NUS.

Annabel will discuss how wild Asian short-clawed otters and smooth-coated otters utilise crucial bankside vegetation along in a palm plantation dominated landscape in the region of the Kalabakan Forest Reserve in Sabah.

See you on Sat 11 July 2020 @ 11.00am! Registration is free, at!

Annabel pianzin

BBC News features Bishan10 – Singapore’s most famous smooth-coated otter family

The 13th International Otter Congress has lead a to feature of Bishan10, our most famous and best-photographed smooth-coated otter family in Singapore.

You can follow news about them on Otter Watch.

Bishan10 use the Kallang River and we hope to have congress participants catch a glimpse of them on Friday. A pre-dawn advance party of scouts hope to provide us a lead as we pick participants up at 6.00am and then to either Marina Bay, upriver at Boon Keng or AMK-Bishan Park.

Many otter folk track elusive animals like I used to, who disappear in a flash when encountered in the field. So we do hope to share with them the joy of observing friendly urban otters – wish us luck!

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Camille Coudrat’s Project ANOULAK in the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, Laos

NewImageRelatively new to the IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group family is primatologist Camille Coudrat’s who leads Project ANOULAK ( She initiated this project in 2012 when conducting research for her PhD project in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area in central-eastern Laos.

The project takes an integrated approach to scientific research, capacity building, habitat protection and environmental education and community involvement. As they educate and train villagers within the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, they form a base of field-savvy research assistants.

Amongst her projects is the project descriptionPilot School Education Project for Knowledge and Attitude Change towards Wildlife and Habitat in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, Laos:

“Villagers are generally not aware of the National or Global status of local species and did not receive any basic environmental education. Providing a curriculum on environmental education adapted to the area’s schools, including teachers training and educational material creation, will empower the next generation to become conservation actors.

If children living within the NPA develop a strong knowledge in the environment and resident wildlife, a positive attitude towards it and the capacity to change their behaviour this will have a long-lasting impact on the wildlife and habitat of the area.”

We look forward to more updates about Laos from this protected area.

“Otters: The waterdogs of Moyar” in Tamil Nadu, India

Kannadasan Narsimmarajan, a Conservation Leadership Programme recipient, shared this video with us at the 13th International Otter Congress.

He says the film crew shot the footage over seven days at his field sites in the River Moyar in Tamil Nadu, India, during which they were really lucky with capturing otter behaviour. They then had to work hard to keep the video length short for the unforgiving internet audience – I thought the end result was excellent! He uploaded this to Youtube and Vimeo just four days ago.

It is interesting that they call the smooth-coated otters “waterdogs”. That was the recorded name used by peninsular Malays in the 19th century – “Anjing Ayer“. Indeed otters are mustelids, one of the Caniformia, or dog-like carnivorans.

Alarm bells for otter conservation – TRAFIC releases report on the Illegal Otter Trade (2016)

05 Jul 2016 – TRAFFIC today released “Illegal Otter Trade: An Analysis of Seizures in Selected Asian Countries (1980 – 2015)” – seizures of live otters destined for the pet market have increased, marking a potentially rising threat to otter species in Asia.

Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia:

“Very little effort has been made in the past to tackle the illegal trade in otters here in Southeast Asia, largely due to ignorance of the situation and an overall lack of concern for ‘low-profile species’.”

Nicole Duplaix, Chair of the IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group:

“What little we know is already setting off alarm bells. Further investigations, including into new trends like otter trade online, are critical if we are to understand the scope of the threats facing otters and take the necessary steps to protect them,”

See what the otter brought back home!

As with everything else, I wished we had more time to put together the IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group’s 13th International Otter Congress. Still, some 120 otter folk are here (3rd – 8th July 2016), sharing information, getting lots of work done and motivating each other.

It has been especially lovely that the resurgence of the smooth-coated otter in Singapore has been shared with our lovely friends from around the world, whose work has supported and encouraged positive action by many of us in this network.

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Kallang River’s smooth-coated otters at St. Andrew’s Village


This is a photo of Bishan5 taken at Kallang River near the Jacob Ballas Bridge of St. Andrew’s Bridge. the family group have been moving between Lower Pierce and Kallang and leaving the vicinity of the river to explore adjacent areas for days.

This lovely photo was taken by Jeffrey Teo and kindly sent to the principals of St. Andrew’s JC, St. Andrew’s Secondary School and St. Andrew’s Junior School – Mrs’ Lee Bee Yann, Lucy Toh and Wong Bin Eng.

St. Andrew’s is fortunate to have the river in such a lovely condition, and this is due to the efforts of so many people before us. It was a black, anoxic and unyielding river in the 70’s when I was a student there. But now, we have otters!

The school is not indifferent to the work of predecessors – the school hymn says,

“They reaped not where they laboured,
We reap what they have sown;
Our harvest may be garnered,
By ages yet unknown.”

The river presents challenges still – the otters have been entangled in raffia, hooked by an illegal fishermen and were chewing on and vomiting out styrofoam. We still have lots of work to do along the river.

See also:

  • The cleaning up of Singapore River and Kallang Basin (1977-1987) [link]
  • Otter Watch – Otters in Singapore [link]

Cycling from Holland Village to Marina Bay – without traffic!

Last week, I woke up a from a deep snooze and took a lovely early morning bicycle ride from Holland Village to Marina Bay. I visited the smooth-coated otter family of six there, and all without battling traffic. Wasn’t that lovely?

The male smooth-coated otter at Gardens by the Bay
(30 Jan 2014; photo by Phira Unadirekkul)

Male otter GBB sleeping

To the rescue from morning peak hour traffic were lovely park connectors, some pavements and a couple of pedestrian crossings. Sharing paths with pedestrians is pleasant as I travel at their speed when needed and never need to ring a bell at anyone – and I greet people along the way. I keep safe at traffic crossings, in case of errant vehicles, by staying alert and following traffic rules to the letter.

From Holland Village, I avoid the busy Commonwealth Road by cycling through Commonwealth Crescent through back roads and then ride the pavements down and up Queensway to reach the quiet Margaret Drive, an interesting area locked in time for now at least.

Next, the canal PCNs provide me relief from the traffic of Alexandra Road, Ganges Avenue and Havelock Road – I join Alexandra Canal Linear Park from Margaret Drive and that links to the Alexandra Park Connector. In the final reaches of the river, I am using the wide walkways at Zion Road, Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay.

Then it is a hop, skip and jump (a few options are available) to reach the barrier-free path at Gardens by the Bay and time to say hello to the otter family in the bay and the avocado milkshake at the hawker centre (Satay by the Bay).

The ride traces the Alexandra branch of the Singapore River, as you can see in this PUB watershed map:

SG Central Watershed  PUB

If you are living in the neighbourhood, do explore the Alexandra PCNs. There are interesting and developing features along this canal. The maps below link to the relevant webpages.