The otter stole at least 50 of the hotel's koi fish, which cost around $2,500 each.
Someone had been stealing koi from a garden at the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel near Chester, England, but no one knew who the culprit was.
But it was an expensive heist — one that cost the hotel over $125,000. They had to get to the bottom of this mystery, so they installed CCTV cameras to hopefully catch their man in the act.
They caught their thief all right, but it was no man. It was something far odder.
As it turned out, the culprit behind this mass koi robbery was none other than a crafty otter.
In total, the otter had stolen 50 of the hotel’s fish. The koi, also known as Nishikigoi, sell for around $2,000 each and can typically live for as long as 30 years. Unfortunately for them, the otter had other plans.
CCTV footage shows the sneaky scoundrel sidle into the hotel and slip past hotel staff as it enters the four-star hotel’s Asian Sensory Garden, where the koi reside. There, the clever thief snatches a koi from the pond before making its escape, disappearing like a phantom in the night.
As The Telegraph reported, the otter even evaded the electric fence previously installed to discourage herons from perusing the pond’s fish population.
“It was definitely a surprise to say the least to find that an otter was the culprit for our huge loss of fish,” said Andrew Nelson, the director of Nelson Hotels & Inns, which runs the hotel. “With the fences we have installed previously to protect smaller fish from herons, we didn’t expect any large animals to be able to access the pond areas. With around £100,000 worth of koi now lost, we are trying to find a solution to prevent any further loss.”
It was certainly a shocking discovery, and not one you’d see every day. Still, odder things have happened.
Not one to miss a sales opportunity, Nelson added, “Our colorful carp are not only eye-catching habitants of our garden, who have enjoyed a happy home on our grounds undisturbed for many years, but a substantial investment into our venue.”
Nishikigoi are indeed a beautiful and colorful breed of carp, though. Their name translates to “swimming jewel,” derived from the Japanese word “nishiki,” meaning beautiful or elegant things.
According to Kodama Koi Farm, the term first into use around 200 years ago, when farmers in Niigata prefecture were breeding black carp as a food source for the winter season.
The unexpected result, however, was the vibrant and unique carp now known as Nishikigoi. Soon enough, they began to breed koi fish selectively. By the Heian period, nobles in Japan kept koi in ponds and fed them with a precious food known as Fu, a wheat gluten-based meat substitute.
The koi fish craze didn’t reach worldwide recognition until the early 1900s, though. At the time, the total koi population was still relatively small. The colorful creatures were exhibited in Tokyo, and the world bore witness to this unique variety of carp for the first time.
All other varieties of Nishikigoi stem from this original set of koi. Given their rarity, it only makes sense that they would be fairly expensive — which makes the loss all the more tragic for the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel.
This isn’t the only time otters have proven to be a nuisance for koi owners, either. According to a report from Insider, throughout 2020 and 2021, a gang of otters known as the Zouk family terrorized Singapore.
In one instance, the otters broke into a condominium’s koi pond, stole the fish, hopped in a nearby pool, and feasted upon their catch while swimming laps. Then, later, in 2021, a group of otters snuck into a local church and killed more than 100 fish — half of which were koi — over a few days.
And then, once again, in September 2021, otters hit another koi pond, this one privately owned by a man who only identified himself as Anthony. The loss was particularly devastating for Anthony, as the 60-year-old man said he had cared for some of the fish since childhood. Some of the longtime fish had grown to be as long as two feet.
The loss left Anthony feeling “depressed” about the loss of his “beloved” fish.
It seems to be one otter disaster after another. Still, it is perhaps a lesson learned for koi owners: take thorough anti-otter precautions when setting up your pond.
After learning about this act of otter thievery, read about the otter who, just last month, was terrorizing California surfers and stealing their boards. Or, read about the discovery of this ancient otter species that was the size of a modern-day lion.