KL mayor pledges DBKL adoption of wild otters for safety as public sightings at parks rise

Woo emphasised that the presence of wild otters indicates a healthy wetland and a functioning ecosystem. — Picture by Shariff Mohamad
Woo emphasised that the presence of wild otters indicates a healthy wetland and a functioning ecosystem. — Picture by Shariff Mohamad

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — The increased sighting of wild otters in Taman Tasik Metropolitan Kepong and Perdana Botanical Garden here has led to a pledge from the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for their protection.

Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan said DBKL decided to ‘adopt’ the animals at both parks for their safety and as a precaution from potentially over-excited members of the public who may unthinkingly cause harm to the wild otters in their enthusiasm.

“The DBKL has made the wild otters as its ‘adopted children’ and will protect them in terms of their safety from visitors who go to the Taman Tasik Metropolitan Kepong and Perdana Botanical Gardens,” Nor Hisham told Malay Mail in a text message when contacted yesterday on the city’s plans for the wild animals, a bellwether of a healthy ecosystem and also a threatened species.

However, he did not elaborate on the adoption care and protection management for the wild otters.

Public sighting of wild otters near the capital city’s waterways have increased in recent months.

Last September 22, a romp of wild otters were spotted at the Taman Tasik Metropolitan Kepong, a 222-acre public park popular with residents of Selayang and Batu Caves.

The park has for years served as a recreational area for families, joggers and kite enthusiasts.

It was only recently that otters were spotted at the park's vast lake.

Following that, two more wild otters were spotted at the Perdana Botanical Garden — formerly known as Taman Tasik Perdana — last month by a jogger who is also a wildlife enthusiast.

Both Taman Tasik Metropolitan Kepong and Perdana Botanical Garden are public parks managed by DBKL.

The two wild otter species sighted here are classified as smooth-coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata), and they are currently listed as "threatened".

Before the mayor disclosed DBKL’s adoption of the wild otters, Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng said he has spoken to Nor Hisham who agreed to form a special team to look into the welfare of the animals.

Apart from the two parks, wild otters have also been sighted elsewhere in the Greater Klang Valley, including the vicinity of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.

The most recent reported sighting was last week in a lake in Subang Ria Park in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

Woo Chee Yoong, a Malaysian Nature Society research assistant focusing on otters, said the fact that more people are coming forward with their "discoveries" of wild otters is a good sign.

He said the public reports of their sighting is helpful to create awareness and believes it can only improve conservation efforts and the environment.

“I will encourage this, because the public will help a lot in our conservation works.

“But we also want to advise that any picture or videos done, should be done in a distance, as close proximity will scare the otters away,” he told Malay Mail.

Woo emphasised that the presence of wild otters indicates a healthy wetland and a functioning ecosystem, saying the creatures are intolerant of polluted environments.

“This too will help encourage local councils to keep the environment clean, for otters and for the people too,” he added.

* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.

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