World’s Only Captive Hairy-nosed Otter Gets New Home

The world’s only known hairy-nosed otter in captivity, one of the rarest and little known of otter species, got a new home and a Buddhist blessing June 18.

Dara, a frisky young male rescued when his mother was killed by a fisherman, was released into a large new enclosure built for him at Phnom Tamau Zoological Garden and Rescue Centre, located near Phnom Penh. The release was celebrated with a blessing by Buddhist monks, a Cambodian tradition when a family moves into a new residence. Dara, which in the Khmer language means “star” or “precious” was brought to the wildlife center in December. He had been living in a small cage since his capture.

The natural habitat for this rare species in Cambodia is the seasonally flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Great Lake. Conservation International (CI) and Cambodia’s Fishery Administration are working together to extend the Kampong Prak fish sanctuary at Tonle Sap Lake up to 20,000 hectares to include vital otter habitat. The expansion includes large areas of flooded forests where at least two species of rare otters are known to exist, the hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana), and the smooth-coated otter (Lutragale perspicillata).

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