Man Thought Death Was Near As Otter Pack Overpowered Him In Singapore Park

Man Thought Death Was Near As Otter Pack Overpowered Him In Singapore Park

An early morning stroll in the Singapore Botanic Gardens turned surreal and nightmarish for one man last month when he was attacked by a pack of smooth-coated otters in an incident that left him with 26 wounds and needing stitches.

“I actually thought I was going to die — they were going to kill me,” Graham George Spencer, a British man in his 60s who lives in Singapore, told The Straits Times.

In the wake of the Nov. 30, incident, local otter enthusiasts have stressed that otter attacks are rare and typically only occur when the animals feel threatened.

The Zouk family of smooth-coated otters, crossing the street in Singapore.

Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty

In this case, Spencer told Reuters that a jogger had run past him and stepped on one of the otters. The animals sprang into action, but when the jogger moved on, past Spencer, the otters seemed to think he was the man who had stepped on one of their pack.

“These otters got attacked, if you will, by being stepped on — and in a moment of confusion they attacked the wrong guy,” Bernard Seah, a photographer who tracks and documents the otters, told the BBC.

The case of mistaken identity made it no less harrowing for Spencer, though. He fell to the ground as the otters overtook him and bit him repeatedly for 10 to 12 seconds before his friend was able to rescue him by yelling at the otters and pulling Spencer to safety.

The otters involved are a group known as the Zouk family, which currently is made up of nine adults and six pups. The Zouks are a frequent sight at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Seah told The Straits Times that they are very “human-tolerant” and he had never heard of them behaving aggressively like this before.

A candid moment with the Zouk family in March.
A candid moment with the Zouk family in March.

Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty

Dr. Tan Puay Yok, group director of the botanic gardens, said that any park visitors should give wildlife ample space, especially when there are young involved.

The Zouks, which get their name from a local nightclub, made headlines in 2020 when COVID-19 lockdowns and the lack of people out in public emboldened them to do things like take a dip in a condo pool and frolic in a children’s hospital lobby.

Some Singaporeans derided the otters after they snacked on expensive ornamental fish in a private pond. But as the Los Angeles Times noted, the incident just made some of their fans love them more, as people empathized more with the otters than the ultra-wealthy who have fancy fish ponds.

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