Singapore’s approach to integrating green spaces into the urban landscape has evolved since the city’s beginnings, when it called itself the “Garden City”. The mandate today is making the city a habitat for more beings. The increasing number of otters in Singapore reflects this shift in the city-state’s environment. Highly sensitive to environmental changes, the presence of these winsome aquatic pups indicates an improvement in the quality of Singapore’s waterways and ecosystems. About 17 families of otters are said to roam across the island, and otter fans have even identified different clans – the Zouk Clan, the Pasir Ris Clan – affectionately referencing a time when gangs oversaw popular districts.
This is a significant change from the past, when otters were thought to be extinct in Singapore due to habitat destruction and pollution. The otter population in Singapore has doubled since 2019, since the start of a collaborative initiative between NGOs, the government, and grassroots groups to clean waterways and connect parks throughout the city.
In 2020, Singapore was rebranded as “City in Nature”, referencing the government’s holistic nature-urban planning approach.
Centred around the romantic goals nature for people, nature for climate, and nature for biodiversity, the planner might not have anticipated the need to allocate resources to these different stakeholders.
Years of complaints about birds in the neighbourhood have already led to bird-feeding fines and culling measures. Otters, regarded as cute and charismatic, are spared the fate of pigeons and crows. However, the recent efforts to relocate them show cuteness only goes so far.
The way we live with others is ultimately a reflection of our inherent nature.