Singapore's Sea Otters!
Otters have been around for millions of years. They help to regulate the balance in nearshore ecosystems. Historically, otter populations have been around 150,000 to 300,000 otters, but now, however, the current otter population only stands at a mere 3,000! Otters face a myriad of challenges toward their existence and are nearing extinction. In terms of conservation efforts, otters don’t receive much attention in many countries, yet they are threatened by critical issues such as habitat destruction, pet trade, and illegal hunting. Despite its endangerment status, the otter population in Singapore is beginning to recover and thrive in this modern, urban setting.
Across Southeast Asia, otters have fallen victim to illegal trade for years. Otter fur is very high in demand in illegal wildlife trade and continues to increase, even today. In addition to fur, other parts of their anatomy, such as their bones and blood, have been used for medicinal purposes in different regions. These traditional medicines have no scientific reasoning or benefits to support their usage. In addition to being used for their anatomy, otters are commonly sought for as illegal pets, however, soon dying due to insufficient care. Occasionally, otters are also featured in circuses, meaning they’re victims to various types of animal abuse, further endangering their population.
In our urban world, it is hard to find an otter’s ideal setting. Otters thrive mainly in environments with plentiful access to water, including lakes, rivers and estuaries. As a result, they play an essential role in maintaining the balance of certain ecosystems. They feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates, mostly eating different types of fish. However, their habitats are being lost due to many human related causes. Threatened by factors such as wetland degradation and water pollution, humans have degraded and reduced the quantity and quality of their habitats.
As was noted above, humans pose a large threat to otters, using and killing otters for various reasons. In addition to illegal hunting, and being used as pets, and habitat degradation, fishing and vehicle strikes pose a threat to otter populations. Otters can often get caught in fishing nets, or can be killed by fishermen due to the otters accidentally destroying fishing nets or eating the fish. Furthermore, since otters can be seen in urban environments, specifically in Singapore, they are victims of vehicle strikes and trauma-based accidents.
All over Asia, and many parts of the world, the otter population is depleting. While this may sound bleak, in Singapore the population is greatly thriving, and beginning to grow with time. 50 years ago in Singapore, the otter population was slowly disappearing due to unclean rivers. Nevertheless, when Singapore’s Clean River Campaign came to action, the otter population began to recover. Now otters can be sighted all over Singapore! With a lack of predators in Singapore and abundant food sources, otters are learning to adapt to Singapore’s urban environment. Slowly, by changing their behaviors, otters are learning to survive in Singapore. Otters have been roaming freely in Singapore since 1990, but there is still work to be done both on the population in Singapore, as well as worldwide.
Otters currently face a multitude of issues, and are getting closer and closer to endangerment. If this continues to go on, many ecosystems will be affected. Otters help the health of kelp forests, and manage the sea urchin population. Since kelp absorbs carbon, otters are helping to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s essential that we help otters. You can do this by trying to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible. This can ensure that trash and wastes don’t enter waterways and harm the otters habitat. In addition, you can participate in beach cleanups and donate to otter funds and charities such as the California Sea Otter Fund. Finally, share your knowledge! The more people know about the issues that otters face, the likelier they are to help them. The otter population is slowly depleting, it’s our responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t continue to happen.
For a short article on sea otter’s role in the environment visit this website: https://defenders.org/wildlife/sea-otter