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The Bishan 10

International celebrities

Story by Shirley Ng August 2nd, 2015

When five became ten

The family moved down river to the Kallang Basin to a nice swanky area by the Sports Hub. They found plenty of fish and lived peacefully with the Marina Bay family after a fight. Then momma otter was pregnant again. In the beginning of 2016, she had five pups.

The five new pups

The family with the largest range

Returning to Bishan as the Bishan 10, this family has the widest range after their fight with the Marina 9. They’ve also become darlings with many Singaporeans who have had the pleasure of meeting them. In August 2016, the family was voted by ST readers to represent Singapore in her 51st year. Many chose the otters because they represented a close-knit family that looked out for each other.

They’ve also become social media and press celebrities with lots of photos being posted on social media sites. International press also covered their story. The BBC did a story on the family when the IUCN Otter Specialist Group held their 13th conference here which was aptly titled “Otters & People”. One the last day of the conference delegates went out in search of otters but they weren’t around. At the eleventh hour, the family was sighted and there were huge smiles on the faces of otter specialists as the 10 didn’t disappoint.

They are also featured in a NatGeo Wild documentary titled Otter Town that is being aired in the US. Most recently, The Economist did a nice write-up on them too titled Move over, Merlion.

Mummy with her five pups when they came back to Bishan Park for a visit. They even stayed in their old holt.
Proud daddy with his three grown sons.
Coming out of their holt that was filled with rubbish.
Mummy giving her pup a good groom.
Coexisting with humans. They aren't shy and have made themselves at home at Sports Hub.
Gardens by the Bay is their playground
Cheeky pup playing with a water pump outlet.
Everywhere they go someone's always taking photos.
Idyllic life of a young otter before it matures and leaves its family.

The beginning....

It was on April 15, 2015 that the three pups were first photographed coming out of their holt with their mother. In the months following the family of five enthralled all who had the opportunity to see them. This family of wild smooth-coated otters living among humans in a park was the most accessible group of otters living in Singapore. To ensure their safety and integration into the community, we worked quickly to cobble together otter sharing sessions christened OtterWatch@Bishan. The first session started immediately after our meeting, when the family came out to greet us as if to give us their blessing. The sharing sessions provided information on the species, and answered all sorts of questions that people had on the family that chose to live in heart of the island. Signs were also put up to inform people on what to do when they encountered smooth-coated otters.

On their way to becoming the Famous Five.
The pups with mum as the holt entrance.
Out and staying close to mum.
A pup using the rope as support when it gets tired.
Temporary signs were put up to advise the public when they encounter otters.
The ever present crowd when ever the otters were around.
One of the pups photographed on April 21.
One of the pups photographed on July 30.

Growing up Wild in bishan

The family moved to Park 1 briefly but returned to Park 2 as the pups still needed the shelter and warmth of the holt. The first time parents could have under estimated their pups ability to handle the weather and the strong currents in the river during torrential downpours.

Mummy can't have peace even while she goes to the toilet.
Still not quite ready to swim on their own. They pile on mummy's back.
Curious about everything, a pup checking out apple snail eggs.
Mummy intent on grooming junior even just for a couple of seconds.
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learning survival skills

It was back to the holt. While the pups stayed close to mum. Dad was responsible for bringing back the fish. The pups weren’t weaned yet but they were learning to eat fish.

Daddy with a well chewed up fish
See the interest in the pup
Chasing after daddy.

Keeping the pups safe

Both parents are ever vigilant. The slightest sound or movement that isn’t normal will send them both into defense mode.

Parents looking for their pups not knowing they were in the other entrance.
A guard making his round at the perimeter fence caused panic in the two adults.
The male climbs up to have a closer look.
United and ready to face danger, if any.

Leaving the holt and park 2

The family made the move from Park 2 to Park 1, and otterly delighted a new group of people who had never met the Famous Five. They even held court on a Sunday when Prime Minister Lee along with the Prime Minister of Australia toured the park. On July 2, they left Park 1 and headed to explore Lower Peirce reservoir, which is part of the Kallang River. They were sighted as far as Upper Peirce. Then they popped up at MacRitchie.

Humans gwaking at otters. Otters gwaking at humans.
End-June and mum is still watching over her babies.
Bloody from the fresh fish that was provided by mum or dad.
They were still given fish by mummy and daddy. During rest periods, the pups would still suckle.
The idylic life of a pup.

the return of the famous five

It will be an over 25-day absence from Bishan Park before the Famous Five returned for a brief visit. The first sign was some spraint at one of their old haunts in Park 1, which said an otter was about. There was also unconfirmed reports that the adults were without their pups. At 6.30pm the adults were seen lazing under a coconut tree without their rambunctious pups. An anxious couple of seconds scanning the pond showed signs of activity. But how many pups? Then the three popped out and were coming towards the camera as if to greet me. Good thing the adults called them and they veered right
The adults sans pups.
They were a sight for sore eyes.
The Famous Five family portrait, they were woken up by the water truck's pump.
The pups loosing their baby faces.
Giving mum a loving mibble.
Dad comtemplating their next lessons.
Bishan Park Singapore