‘I thought I was going to die’: Otters pin down, attack man in Singapore

A bevy of smooth coated otters lookout to the city skyline at the Gardens by the Bay on August 8, 2021 in Singapore. Suhaimi Abdullah / Reuters

A British citizen living in Singapore said he feared for his life after he was pinned down by a pack of otters and bitten more than 20 times.

Graham George Spencer told The Straits Times that his visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens this week went awry when a runner on a path passed him and a friend, aggravating a nearby pack of otters.

The group of animals charged the runner, who was able to dodge the smooth-coated creatures and keep running. They then set their sights on Spencer.

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“All of a sudden, they must have thought I was (the runner),” he told the news agency.

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“I actually thought I was going to die. They were going to kill me.”

A wild smooth-coated otter feeds on a fish on the Singapore river on Feb. 21, 2019. Roslan Rahman / AFP via Getty Images

Spencer said the otters swarmed his feet, biting at his ankles and causing him to fall down.

Once the otters had him on the ground, they attacked his legs and buttocks. Spencer’s friend was able to fend off the animals by screaming at them.

“I was bitten 26 times in 10 seconds. If it wasn’t for my friend, I don’t think I’d still be here. I’d be dead,” he told local outlet Today.

Spencer said he and his friend sought shelter at the visitor centre, running all the way there with the otters in hot pursuit.

He was sent to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for 26 wounds, some of which required stitches, and was treated with antibiotics.

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Otter attacks on humans are very rare, but not unheard of, Tan Puay Yok, group director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, told The Straits Times.

The L.A. Times reports that the approximately 100 to 150 otters living in Singapore have become an increasing nuisance over the years.

A roving gang of otters, known locally as the Zouk family, are believed to be the same group that attacked Spencer. In the past year they have been spotted swimming in condo pools, traipsing through the lobby of a children’s hospital, and eating their way through thousands of dollars worth of expensive koi fish at a spa.

Calls to cull the animals have been met with pushback from local otter enthusiasts. Some have suggested deterring the otters with rubber bullets and airhorns.

Singapore’s national parks board has issued an advisory on what to do if you cross paths with an otter, reports the BBC.

“DO NOT touch, chase or corner the otters. Observe them from a distance. Going too close to the otters may frighten them,” it has warned.


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