Act for Nature 2020: Smooth-Coated Otter

I chose to design an infographic on the popular smooth-coated otter in Singapore. Otters are one of Singapore’s most endearing wild animals, as evidenced from a national ST poll where they were voted to represent the country on its 51st birthday, and can often be seen frequenting parks and urban spaces. On a particularly rainy morning during a school event two years ago, one large family was even spotted wandering about my school gate, and I remembered hearing my school friends express remarks about not knowing we had otters in Singapore. Hence, I thought my AFN was a good opportunity for me to share more about an animal that had piqued their interest but was relatively unfamiliar to them.

Smooth-coated otters at my school last year!

The five friends whom I presented my infographic too are JC students as well. I think talking about wildlife especially in an urban city as compact as ours can sometimes come across as quite foreign to us, hence I decided to use a simple infographic that conveyed all the main points succinctly, was easy to understand and appealed to all audiences. 

My infographic on smooth-coated otters

I also made a short powerpoint presentation sharing some extra information with them, such as the other otter species in Singapore (Asian small-clawed otter), our major smooth-coated otter families and the pertinent issue of human-otter conflict in Singapore. I even screened some footage from Otterwatch and YouTube as not many of them had observed otter activity closely before. Surprisingly, they were quite entertained by the videos, especially when they saw clips of the otters cuddling, and the iconic Bishan-Marina fights.

One of my friends shared with me that they did not know otters were such active and intelligent creatures that managed to adapt to a country as metropolitan as ours. Another was quite amazed that our smooth-coated otter families had territorial fights. I also sent my friends Sivasothi’s sharing on One FM 91.3, and they were quite taken aback at the suggestion by some members of the public to shoot the otters with rubber bullets so they ‘don’t run amok’. 

Our discussion eventually managed to extend beyond the otters, as they started raising some interesting concerns about human-wildlife conflict that was beyond what I shared, and we were able to engage in some meaningful discussions and exchange opinions on what we felt was the best way to strike a balance between human and wildlife needs. We agreed that man-made ‘deterrents’ can harm our animals and the lack of wildlife in a hyper-urbanised Singapore would take away much joy from people, which we often receive when we catch sight of them in our parks and urban spaces. After some research, we also discovered that most animal populations, especially the otters, have their own way of maintaining the population through territorial fights and natural predators, and that it is more important to treasure our biodiversity and appreciate our wildlife for us to coexist with animals peacefully.

Zoom sharing 🙂
Lunch break!

The most interesting aspect of this activity was searching up videos of otters online to share with my friends. I wanted to make the sharing more extensive, and given the physical restraints of the current pandemic, I decided to maximise the digital platform by screening some videos. They feedbacked that it was a good opportunity for them to view the otters up close and personal! I myself had a great time scrolling through live footage that members of the public had taken and found myself appreciating our otters a lot more for all the joy that they bring to fellow Singaporeans when we spot them on the street. 

My personal takeaway was that it is actually less difficult than it seems to introduce Singapore’s biodiversity to our friends. I often used to presume that there were many barriers to sharing about our local biodiversity such as time and interest, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how engaged my friends were during my sharing. I realised that advocating for our wildlife does not have to be a difficult and daunting task, as many are actually quite receptive to finding out more about our local animals, and even taking a short 5 minutes to share can pique their interest and kickstart some meaningful discussions that they might otherwise not have the chance to think about. The best way for youths to promote our local biodiversity can be as simple as increasing our friends’ exposure to them through photos and titbits so that we raise awareness and encourage a culture of respect and appreciation for our wildlife.

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