Close Encounter with An Otter

December 26, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 1 Comment
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We were still complaining that it was such a quiet morning with no rare migrant birds as recently reported by fellow birdwatchers at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves when suddenly we saw it. Our friend had initially thought it was a small dog, as stray dogs were often seen there. But, it was no dog. Instead, right in front of our eye, playfully displaying himself on land, was a Smooth Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)!

There was already a family observing and taking photos of the Otter. When the visitor snapped a photo with flash, we were so worried that it might scare away the Otter. It did, for a moment, ran back to the water. But it ran back to land almost immediately, much to our surprise. This was the fourth times Itchyfingers were so lucky to see the Smooth Otter, and it was definitely the nearest and the easiest to photograph individual!

Since Tisu Boy was carrying his big lens, he couldn’t photograph the Otter at such a near distance and had to keep backing away in order to take a decent portrait of the Otter. Worried that the Otter would suddenly disappear into the water like our previous encounters, I took out my small camera, zoomed in all the way to take some record shots…

A still image from my video clip. So itchy….This Smooth Otter, or the
Smooth-coated Otter, was almost oblivious to all the stares and just carried
on rubbing himself on the ground and entertaining us with some acrobatic moves…

The Otter was simply too near that Tisu Boy could only take his portrait…
It has short muzzle and fur. The nose was covered with mud, and it kept
sticking out the tongue…so cute!

It liked to rub itself and lie down sticking the neck on the ground…so cute…
Otters have webbed feet and prominent claws…

It even gave us a yawn…!
8) Did you notice something?

It was missing a lower left canine tooth! :p The teeth were generally white
except one black spot that looked like dental filling in humans’ teeth…hahaha!
The underside of the tongue looked rough…reminded me of cat’s tongue… :p

While we were looking, two other photographers came from the other direction and joined in. The family left shortly.

With two more cameras clicking away, the Otter was still not the least bothered by us…We started to wonder about the reason for its tameness…was it because some visitors had been feeding them? But we have not heard of any reports of visitors feeding these mammals. Otters are fish eaters, not sure if they would take human food…? Those Small-clawed Otters in our zoo were fed fish and pellets though…The previous times we saw Otters, they were very wary of people, even when we were so quiet and quite a distance away…they would usually dive into the water and disappear. This time, it was so close to us, and seemed so used to people…This just didn’t feel good…especially when one of the other photographers started making sounds to attract its attention…

The comment and mimicking sounds were made by the photographer…notice the Otter
had a scar on his body…We were getting a bit uncomfortable that it behaved so tame…
more so when those photographers started firing their flashes 😦

Then to our surprise again, the Otter, which was already quite close to us,
ran straight towards Tisu Boy, who was further away, then stopped and
looked at the photographer at the left of the photo here, before making
a 180 degree turn back! Maybe he was trying to take a closer look at that
photographer’s flash? 😮

Maybe in his excitement, the same photographer who made the sounds earlier, stomped his foot and gave a clap for no reason. The Otter got startled and ran into the water….Seeing it disappeared, the photographers also left.

We stayed for a while longer to see if the Otter would be back, and yes..! The tame little fella came back again…

The wet look…tongue sticking out again... :p

This time he didn’t stay too long on land. Instead he ran across and into the other side of the water and soon disappeared…Otters can stay under water for six to eight minutes in one breadth!

We had such a close encounter with the Otter for at least eight minutes and it was definitely the highlight of the day! But we didn’t expect to see the Otter again! Could it be the same individual?

A still image from my video, this time it was much further in the water.
See the Otter swimming towards the Malayan Water Monitor Lizard?
This guy was huge, easily measuring two metres long!

The cute Otter just swam towards the Lizard to say hello before turning back
and then dived into the water again…

This was what Tisu Boy saw through his lens..He seemed to have one missing
lower canine tooth…

Then, on our way out, guess what…

We saw the Otter again! Could it be following us? Hahah…can’t see the tooth..
Interestingly, this guy was swimming near another Water Monitor Lizard.
Notice this lizard had strange patchy orange skin…maybe it was moulting?
Looked like sun-burnt skin to me…hahah 😀

He dived in and out a few more times before disappearing again. That was the last time we saw the Smooth Otter. Though there are more sightings of individual and family of Smooth Otters, it is still not very easy to see them as they are generally shy creatures. Certainly hope that our close and long encounter with the Otter was a rare one, as being so tame and used to humans may not be good for wild animals; and we definitely hope that our worry about visitors feeding Otters was unfounded, that this individual was just an exceptionally curious and bold one. Anyway, it was a great day to have met the Smooth Otter again!

Also see related posts:
> Star Appearance at the Wetland
> Smooth Sailors at the Wetland


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