Anil Netto reports on the sighting of otters gliding along the coast of mainland Penang.
This family of about seven otters was swimming leisurely along the coast of northern Butterworth this morning in search of breakfast – fish.
As they swam, their path was obstructed by a drain pipe and they had to clamber on it, where they took a breather.
This coastal stretch along the mainland, facing Tanjung Tokong on the island, is popular among weekend fishing enthusiasts.
These ottters are believed to be smooth-coated otters, previously seen off the coast of Gurney Drive, Tanjung Tokong and Bayan Mutiara in Penang Island in 2015-2017, before a spate of massive land reclamation work began along the island’s eastern coast.
In 2017, environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia said it was disheartened to hear that the seafront at Bayan Mutiara would be reclaimed for development after otters were spotted on the island. “Sea otters and other marine life are highly likely to be affected by habitat degradation and loss. Developments such as land reclamation, sewage, dredging, and dumping degrade the environment and take up valuable habitat.
SAM urged the government and the local planning authorities to assess how reclamation projects will affect the otters. “The impacts to be considered include habitat loss and degradation in or near water bodies; disturbance to resting and feeding places; disturbance to otters’ usual routes, which may force them to use roads or bridges where they are more likely to be injured or killed; and also changes to water quality, which could also affect food sources.”
This sighting of otters should make us rethink our ecologically destructive plans and spur us on to protect our rich marine and coastal treasures.