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Otter Infestation Grips Singapore, Costing Thousand Of Dollars

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  • Tip Bones

Cute otters have infested Singapore, and they are costing the country thousands of dollars' worth of expensive koi fish.

Otter populations in Singapore are on the rise, seriously threatening the natural biodiversity there. They have grown from a few tens to hundreds in a matter of months, with residents documenting an increasing number of attacks from the families dwelling on the island.

In 2020, a brazen coterie of otters known as the Zouk family (named for a local nightclub) went on an outing to a local condominium. The group raided the building's koi pond and then splashed in its pool, bringing its koi kills along.

But that was the story of last year. This year too, a group of otters invaded a church and killed over a hundred fish, of them half of which were koi.

Later, a group of otters hit a private koi pond in a northeastern part of the city-state, setting upon and killing several fish.

The 60-year-old owner, who gave his name as Anthony said he was devastated after the otters killed koi fish in his pond. Anthony told the outlet he was "depressed" by the loss of his "beloved" fish, recalling that he would feed the animals by hand every morning and evening.

"I think what a lot of people don't understand is that people keep koi for years and years," Philip Johns, a biologist at Singapore's Yale-NUS College, told Insider. The average life span of a koi fish is about 40 years, according to the Singapore National Zoo, but they can live much longer; one Japanese koi lived to be 226 years old.

Plus, Johns added, koi can be expensive. Some rare ornamental koi can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions, depending on the colors and markings the fish. A 2018 auction of Japanese koi saw one fish go for $1.8 million.

Most of the otters now living in the city-state are smooth-coated otters, which can weigh up to 22 pounds, though there is also a smaller population of small-clawed otters. Singapore's otter population is still listed as critically endangered, according to the country's national-parks system, but Johns said Singapore's otter pods were having more and more pups, as the COVID-19 restrictions seem to have emboldened the animals.