4 years after first sighting, ‘Bishan Dad’ responsible for kickstarting Singapore’s love for otters dies

Photo: OtterWatch

On a serene afternoon along the Kallang River last Saturday, the patriarch of the beloved Bishan otter family breathed his last. Surrounded not by his family, but by the humans who’ve kept a close eye on him since his first sighting in early 2014.

Living to a ripe old age of eight, the smooth-coated otter saw his family of 14 for the last time at 10:45am before they swam away. After a week of declining health, volunteers from the Otter Working Group and the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society had attempted to trap the critter to take it for treatment, but the operation was called off to prevent further stress to the otter.

“…it did not seem likely that treatment would be an option,” OtterWatch painfully realized.

And so the humans sat by to observe the otter’s final few hours. “It was hard to stay and watch Bishan Dad fading away,” noted Marjorie Chong, who carried his body to Wildlife Reserves Singapore. “But leaving him to die alone was never an option.”

After undergoing a small seizure around 2:35pm, the animal passed away five minutes later. The footage captured of his final moments will now be of scientific value to researchers, according to OtterWatch, as the documentation of otters’ behavior approaching death in the wild is considered rare.

Following a post-mortem, the otter’s carcass may be preserved as a wet museum specimen at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, reported The Straits Times.


The otter that launched a thousand snaps

Four years ago, the otter found love at the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and soon gave birth to triplets — the family became affectionately known as the Bishan 5. They shot to nationwide fame quickly and more pups were born over the years. The family relocated to Marina Bay in 2015, and their celebrity status grew through relentless media coverage and a starring role in David Attenborough’s Wild City documentary.

Bishan Dad and his expansive family became the symbol of Singapore’s garden city aspiration — an example of how wild animals can flourish in a densely urban environment. Wild smooth-coated otters were thought to have permanently disappeared from Singapore in the ’70s, and the re-emergence of otters have been a cause of celebration among nature lovers here.

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