When one lost little otter was left alone on a Singapore beach, it seemed his chances of survival were slim. However, animal rescue teams were left astonished by what happened when the pup began crying out.
The six-week-old pup became separated from his relatives in May 2016. So in a desperate bid to find them, the little otter, alone and vulnerable, and for the first ever time, ventured out of the den in which he had been born.
Sadly, it wasn’t long before the inexperienced youngster fell into difficulty. The pup slipped into a canal at high tide and struggled to stay afloat.
Luckily for him, 60-year-old local man Patrick Ng dove into the water and quickly scooped him to safety. Ng returned him to his den, but the little one’s family had yet to return.
Ng left the baby there in the hope that his parents and siblings would come home, and he alerted local otter enthusiast group OtterWatch. The group monitored the den, but after ten hours the family hadn’t returned, so the group was left with no choice but to take the matter into its own hands.
The pup was transferred to the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), where he was nicknamed ZooToby. Ng settled on the name Toby owing to its Hebrew meaning, “God is good.”
“Indeed, God is good. He sent so many people to rescue [Toby] from certain death as [he] was nearly drowned and lost [his] family,” Ng said, explaining his choice of name.
The Wildlife Reserves Singapore team nursed little Toby back to health in the hope that he would eventually be released back into the wild. If they hadn’t have stepped in, it’s likely he would have died, since young otter pups need regular feeds from their mother to survive.
The pup was given a vitamin B shot, dewormed and bottle-fed. And after just a few days the little otter was responding so well to his treatment that the WRS vets decided to attempt reuniting him with his family.
They hoped Toby would be readily accepted back into the fold, although no one was quite sure what would happen. Hence, to give the pup the best chance of rehabilitation, WRS enlisted a team of 20 experts led by N. Sivasothi – otherwise known as “Otterman” – from the biology department of the National University of Singapore.
The team got to work on how to best reintroduce Toby to his family. Lookouts were placed along the coast to look for the adult otters, while the pup was planted in strategic locations in the hope that his family would come to him.
Finally, the team stumbled across the ideal location – a sandy beach on a secluded cove. The team said their goodbyes and optimistically left Toby on the beach.
However, when the nervous pup refused to leave the safety of his carrier, the team removed it completely and placed him on the sand. It was then that, alone and vulnerable, he started to loudly cry.
After a tense few seconds, a group of adult otters emerged from the vegetation and sprinted across the beach towards little Toby. After a week of separation, the family were finally together again.
In heartwarming footage of the reunion, the romp of otters can be seen gently nuzzling and sniffing the wayward Toby. The whole family then, seemingly joyful, skip off into the distance, with one adult carrying Toby in its mouth.
Describing the jubilant scene, OtterWatch member Jeffery Teo said it was an example of “humanity at its best form.” He told Singapore newspaper the Strait Times, “The rescue and reintroduction of Toby has demonstrated an unprecedented collaboration and ‘make-it-happen’ spirit between members of the public and across multiple agencies.”
“Everyone puts in their best, not for pride nor glory,” he added. “We just want to bring Toby home.” And who can argue with that?
Although Toby’s reintroduction was proved to be successful, OtterWatch has continued to keep a watchful eye over the otters. It seems the family, known to OtterWatch as the “Marina Family,” have been getting on just swimmingly.
Little Toby has continued to grow and is often spotted playing with his three siblings. Meanwhile, the pup’s touching story has won numerous fans.
OtterWatch’s Facebook page has been inundated with well-wishes ever since it began chronicling Toby’s story. Moreover, the group has since reported that otter spotting is having a surge of popularity in Singapore, among locals and tourists alike. This little wayward otter has, it seems, made a big splash.