‘I thought I was going to die’: otters attack British man in Singapore park

‘I thought I was going to die’: otters attack British man in Singapore park

A man attacked by a pack of otters in a Singapore park has said that he thought he was going to die during the ordeal.

Graham George Spencer, a British citizen living in Singapore, said he was chased, pinned down and bitten “26 times in 10 seconds” by a family of otters while out for an early morning walk in the botanic gardens.

Spencer told The Straits Times he was approaching the gardens’ entrance on 30 November when he spotted about 20 otters crossing a path in front of him.

The animals were moving quietly but “went crazy” after another man ran towards them, Spencer told the paper. The runner was able to avoid the animals but Spencer was not as lucky.

He said they lunged at him, biting his ankles, legs and buttocks and causing him to fall over.

“I actually thought I was going to die – they were going to kill me,” he added.

Spencer’s friend, who was about “15 paces” away from him, ran up screaming in a bid to scare away the otters.

“I was bitten 26 times in 10 seconds. If it wasn’t for my friend, I don’t think I’d still be here. I’d be dead,” he told local outlet Today.

The pair said they ran towards a visitor centre, still pursued by the otters. After staff at the centre treated some of the wounds, Spencer took himself to nearby Gleneagles hospital where he was given tetanus shots and oral antibiotics.

He said he has returned to the hospital three times to treat his wounds. The attack has cost about $1,200 in medical bills.

After speaking with a representative from the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Spencer said he was told authorities were investigating the incident.

The island is believed to be home to 10 families of otters, or about 90 in total. Driven away by pollution in the 1970s, they have returned as the country’s waterways have been cleaned up in recent years. The Washington Post reports the animals are common sights in hospital lobbies and condominium pools, and have even been seen drinking from public fountains.

Although river otters appears benign, the animals have been known to attack people in the past. In May, a 77-year-old man reportedly was bitten on the leg by an otter while exercising near Kallang River in Singapore.

Residents of Anchorage, Alaska, were confronted by a pack of aggressive otters in September. A spate of reported incidents saw the group attack dogs, children and adults near creeks, rivers and lakes in the area.

Bernard Seah, a member of OtterWatch and the Otter Working Group that track otters in the area surrounding the Singapore Botanic Gardens, said that the family of otters, named the “Zouk family”, were regular visitors to the Gardens and may have bitten Spencer fearing danger.

“Given that it was early morning, it may have been dark and confusing for the otters and (Spencer) may have just been a victim of circumstance,” he told the Straits Times.

Singapore’s national parks board has issued an advisory on what to do during an encounter with an otter. “DO NOT touch, chase or corner the otters. Observe them from a distance. Going too close to the otters may frighten them,” it says.

This article by Samantha Lock was first published by The Guardian on 10 December 2021. Lead Image: A bevy of smooth coated otters look out to the city skyline at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Photograph: Suhaimi Abdullah/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock.

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