World's only: Dara eats fish at Cambodia's Phnom Tamau Zoo
The world's only known hairy-nosed otter in legal captivity has taken swimmingly to its new home in a Cambodian zoo, an official said Wednesday.
The male otter, named Dara, which means "star" in the Cambodian language, was rescued in December after his mother was killed by a fisherman.
Conservation officials later brought him to Phnom Tamau Zoo, where he was looked after in a smaller enclosure before being released last week into his new, 33-by-50ft pen last week.
"He looks quite satisfied in his new home. Each day, he spends most of his time swimming in the pool and climbing the rock and the wooden structures," said zoo director Nhek Rattanak Pech.
As Dara entered his new home, two Buddhist monks chanted prayers - a Cambodian practice when a family moves into a new house.
According to U.S.-based Conservation International, Dara belongs to one of the rarest otter species. The hairy-nosed otter is known to survive only in a few regions of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
They are increasingly threatened by loss of habitat, as well as by hunters who kill them for the illegal international fur trade or for use in traditional medicines, the group said in a statement. They are also captured as pets.
In Cambodia, the otters' main habitat is the flooded forests around Tonle Sap Lake, where they are killed by fishermen who consider them pests.
To ensure the survival of the rare species, scientists have recommended breeding them in captivity, said Annette Olsson, a Conservation International research manager in Cambodia.
"Dara could be the founder of such a captive population, if and when we find him a wife," Olsson said in a statement.
The zoo is about 28 miles south of the capital, Phnom Penh.
On a prayer: Buddhist monks blessing Dara, the hairy-nosed otter while being released into its new home at the Phnom Tamau Wildlife Sanctuary
Pictured: Dara the hairy-nosed otter settling down swimmingly in his new Cambodian home | Mail Online