Otters protective of their young inadvertently provoked to attack a tourist

NEWS AND COMMENT-SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS: A British expat, Graham Spencer, was attacked by a horde of 20 otters and bitten 26 times on his buttocks, ankles and legs after they rampaged over him while he was visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens. He feared for his life. He felt that he was saved by a friend who shouted at the animals which caused them to briefly pause. He was bleeding from multiple wounds. They dashed to a nearby visitor centre. The otters chased them. He was treated at Gleneagles Hospital where he received antibiotics and tetanus jabs.

Otter. Pic in the public domain.

The group director of the Gardens, Tan Puay Yok, said the attacks are rare but he advised visitors against feeding the otters and he suggested that the incident was caused by adults being protective of their pups. This may have happened on this occasion because a runner near Mr Spencer had inadvertently given the impression to the adult otters that there are going to be attacked. The runner swerved out of the reach of the otters. Perhaps the otters targeted the runner but he ran away and therefore they redirected their aggression against Mr Spencer.

This reminds me of the well-known form of feline aggression called “redirected aggression” which occurs when a cat sees, for example, a hostile cat outside the window on their territory and disliking it but being unable to attack that cat they bite their owner when he or she tries to pet them. That can happen sometimes and it can be interpreted incorrectly as an unprovoked attack by a usually well-behaved cat.

Returning to the otters, Mr Spencer said that the otters went crazy and “I actually thought I was going to die”. He was forced to the ground where they bit him. Apparently, the number of otters at the gardens has risen in recent years. Some people like it and others find them annoying.

Mr Spencer was interviewed by The Strait Times. The story was reported in The Times.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful Note: I will donate 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment made over the next three months on pages where comments can be made.
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Post Category: Marine wildlife