Category Archives: Mammals

An evening with the Bishan otter family

I had been eagerly following the news of the Smooth-coated Otter family from Bishan for some time, but did not have the opportunity to see them in person sooner due to other commitments.

To recap, there is now a family of Smooth-coated Otters that has made their home at Bishan Park. To understand the circumstances of how they came about and to enjoy really great commentary and pictures about them, please head to these two Exposure stories and pictorial by Shirley Ng (LINK) and Jeff Tan (LINK). They have been following these otters and documenting them from the very beginning.

My experience was just one overcast and rainy evening on 21 April 2015, so just a tiny snapshot of the family. Thanks to Shirley for informing me of their whereabouts. I knew what angle I wanted to concentrate on, even before the encounter, so out came the seldom used tripod! Thankfully the otters put up a good show as well. Below are the photos and the video

To ensure sane load time, I have separated the article and the rest of the photos. Please click on the respective photos in the photo gallery for more commentary.

Photo Gallery


Sometimes, photos alone don’t do enough justice in conveying animal behaviour. That’s when videos come in handy. Hope you enjoy the snippets obtained. These were prepared in full HD format. I have embedded them in the article, but click on the title of the video to launch it in full resolution at YouTube to have a better experience.

1. The otter family preparing their resting place by smearing and rolling on the grass and soft earth that was wet due to the slight drizzle. They were having a rollicking good time as well. As this stage I was positioned rather far despite my long lens system as I was unsure about their temperament.

2. I found a better position to observe their frolicking and the subsequent nursing of the young otters. You can see how wary the parents were by their constant checking of their surrounding. Out of the camera view, a middle-aged man got very near to take photos presumably using his camera phone. I tried in vain to beckon him to move further earlier and you can see him at the 3:44 mark and the subsequent reaction of the family.

3. Having decided that we were of no threat, Shirley, Jeff and I inched closer. I had the longest lens, so I was good for a full frame video.

4. I think this is about the best video of the lot. Loving family with a beautiful backdrop, with the sound of the urban surroundings.

5. Bonus video. It started raining and the otters had to leave and the photographers had to temporarily scramble. It’s a wrap then!

Lastly, it looks like the otters are making a comeback in Singapore over the past few years. There are now otter families regularly sighted at Gardens by the Bay, Sungei Buloh, Lorong Halus and Pasir Ris Park. I have seen grownups squeal in delight seeing them for the first time. There is much to be said about our local charismatic megafauna and its effect on us. If we do want them to stay around, at the minimum please let them have their personal space and tolerate the things that they do. They are not pets, cuddly as they may seem. Wildlife deserve a place in Singapore, and we should do our part to conserve whatever is left. The tigers are long gone, but at least we should keep our otters.

Another otter encounter at Sungei Serangoon

In my previous otter encounter, I had written about one of them eating a fish along the bank of Sungei Serangoon. Although there were other otters nearby, I did not manage to fit them in frame and the lighting as poor.

Going back to the same place about a month later, I managed to find the family again. This time around, the lighting was better and the family was more comfortable with my presence. One of them was eating a freshly caught tilapia fish, while the others looked on. A happy encounter. I have uploaded higher resolution files this time around.

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Sashimi, wasabi and otter

The Smooth-coated Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) are a perennial favourite of mine. From the early days of my wildlife photography journey, I have encountered and written about them here, here and here.

I continue to bump into them repeatedly in recent years, but unique photographic opportunities have been rarer.

On an early morning in April this year, I managed to track down a family of these otters at Sungei Serangoon near to the barrage. Lighting condition was still low, but these otters were happily frolicking by the bank of the river. One of them had a fish and seem more interested in eating than playing with the rest of the group. My long lens setup was ideal for some close-up shots, as it was unconcerned about my presence, while the rest went away soon after.

What’s with the mention of wasabi? Go to the photo gallery to find out.

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Bottlenose Dolphins at Singapore Strait

Recently, dolphins have been in the news in Singapore for the wrong reasons. Captive dolphins dying at the Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa, as well as the recent dolphin carcasses swept-up on our beach made for some depressing news.

Most people’s idea of seeing wild dolphins is to go on a holiday far away, perhaps Australia or New Zealand to experience them first hand. So it comes as a surprise that dead dolphins can wash ashore locally. Yet, Singapore does have a healthy population of wild dolphins around its territorial waters. The most commonly encountered species in Singapore are the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). If one take a boat ride along Singapore Strait for a day trip, there is probably a 50% chance that a pod or two of them will show up.

I had been involved in a few pelagic bird survey trips in the Singapore Strait for the past 3 years, mainly organized by Nature Society (Singapore), so there have been a couple of times that I have seen these aquatic mammals. Most of the time, the encounters have been brief, and I am exceedingly bad at getting decent photographs of them. It is almost like a game of whack-a-mole, trying to predict where they will surface again after the initial contact. These are wild dolphins. Though curious, they do not linger for long, and there is no history of prolonged contact with human, unlike their cousins elsewhere. Nonetheless, the encounters are always a delight to almost everyone on-board, again underlining the charismatic nature of these animals.

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Assam Macaque of Bhutan

The Assam Macaque (Macaca assamensis) is a species of monkey found in South and Southeast Asia. Their numbers are in decline due to human activities and development, including land clearing, hunting and logging.

I had a chance to have a quick look at this species in one of the highway in Bhutan in April 2013. As we were in a car, not too many photo opportunities.

Assam Macaque
(A male eating)

Assam Macaque
(A female with a baby)

Pika in Bhutan

Just a short note on this pika that I found in April 2012 at Chelela Pass, Bhutan. I believe it is the Moupin Pika (Ochotona thibetana), but I am not 100% sure.


In general, pikas are found in colder climate up in the mountains. They are related to the rabbits and hares. They look cute with rounded ears, short limbs and no external tail.