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Few koi survive otter madness in Chinatown’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

As the fish fatalities rise, the park board scrambles to rescue remaining inhabitants

Staff overseeing the drainage of the pond at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden. Photo by Mathilda de Villiers
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Reported by Mathilda de Villiers

Ten precious koi fish were the cost of a crafty otter’s week-long habitation in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighbourhood.

Since the otter took its first helping of koi last week, the Vancouver Park Board has attempted to capture and relocate it without success. The mammal outsmarted authorities and continued to enjoy its new territory in the garden.

The otter has been identified as of the northern river variety, known to inhabit Burrard Inlet and False Creek. It’s not uncommon for them to travel multiple kilometres to find new territory, according to Chris Stinson at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver.

Stinson, who specializes in mammals, reptiles and amphibians, said that otters can migrate from their existing environment for a number of reasons.

“If there is any changes from either human interactions, or changes in climate, or natural things, they’ll move to a better food source,” he said.

Officials scramble to relocate remaining fish

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Facebook’s page said on Saturday that “after several hours spent in and around the water, we were at last able to get one koi to Vancouver Aquarium for safekeeping.”

It took Vancouver Park Board several hours to capture the koi, with three fish still left in the pond. They are now draining the pond in order to capture the remaining fish.

Michael Manalang, the Vancouver Aquarium’s primary freshwater biologist, said that the behaviour of the otter is not uncommon, as residents’ fish ponds regularly get ravished by creatures like river otters, raccoons and herons.

“If a predator sees an opportunity they’ll take it,” he said.

Manalang believes that the story is getting a lot of attention because the garden is a staple for Vancouver tourism and the staff who work there have built relationships with the animals.

“There’s such diverse wildlife in this province so anything relating to wild otters, river otters, people really latch onto it,” he said.

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