SINGAPORE - As Sunday's (Dec 9) Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon was underway, several unusual guests joined in - a group of 16 otters.
Ten adult otters and six babies were seen at around 7.25am at a section of the marathon route that went through Gardens by the Bay.
According to otter enthusiasts, the animals had slept at Gardens by the Bay overnight. The adults woke up at around 6am and headed for breakfast, before returning at 7.25am to collect the babies to forage for food together.
Close to an hour later, the otters moved to another part of Gardens by the Bay and were spotted rolling around on the ground to dry themselves, to the delight of event participants who whipped out their phones to snap photos of the animals.
Mr Bernard Seah, 49, a wildlife photographer and volunteer with the Otter Working Group, was at Gardens by the Bay with four others to help facilitate the movement of the otters across the busy race route.
The Otter Working Group is made up of representatives from the public and various government and other agencies involved in the welfare of otters.
Mr Seah said that he and other enthusiasts alerted the Otter Working Group on Thursday to contact the race organisers as there was a chance the otters would hang around the Gardens by the Bay section of the marathon route.
"If the runners are doing their thing and the otters try to cross their path, the otters might be afraid and not know why the humans are running towards them," said Mr Seah.
"The adult otters might be protective of their babies, and there might have been a possibility of human-otter conflict."
The Otter Working Group got in touch with the marathon organisers on Friday and the two parties discussed over the weekend scenarios that could unfold if the otters came close to the marathon route or stayed overnight by the route.
Mr Seah said race officials told him that they would inform and advise their volunteers along the route to keep a lookout for otters and guide them away from harm if necessary. They would also do an initial sweep of the area before the run to ensure there were no issues.
A day before the race, "our worst fears came true as (the otters) were actually sleeping just a few metres from the race route", said Mr Seah.
On Sunday, a group of five people - two from the Otter Working Group and three volunteers from the otter-watching community - went to the marathon route in Gardens by the Bay to help inform event participants about the otters' presence in the area, as well as to step in if necessary.
Due to their efforts, no human-otter clashes were reported and the otters were able to make their way about Gardens by the Bay while capturing hearts.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.