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Blog: 'The bachelor' in Cambodia

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN's Eunice Yoon traveled to Cambodia to report on the plight of hairy-nosed otters
  • Dara is an otter living in captivity; in the wild they are on the edge of extinction
  • Hope to spread conservation message and reverse what locals call 'empty forests'
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By CNN's Eunice Yoon
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(CNN) -- When you first meet Dara, you can't help but fall for him.

Dara takes a dip: Its hoped his species of hairy-nosed otters will see an upturn in numbers.

He's cute, lovable, and managed to charm my entire crew when we visited him outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

OK. Dara isn't a hunky bachelor with his own reality TV show but a hairy-nosed otter who arguably has a higher calling: To revive his species from the verge of extinction.

If only he could find a wife.

Dara is the first of his kind to be bred in captivity as part of a plan by conservationists and Cambodian officials to save the hairy-nosed otter.

Up until the 1990's, it was believed the rare otter was extinct, driven into history by poachers who hunted -- and still hunt -- otters for their smooth, water-resistant fur pelts.

These pelts are sold on the black market for $150 a skin and shipped to countries such as China where the fur is used in traditional costumes.

Conservationists told us the underground trade of exotic animals is thriving and leading to what they call "empty forests".

They say certain species of turtles, bears, otters, and other wildlife are getting harder to find as the animals and their parts are illegally trafficked via third countries such as Vietnam.

Many of the animals are valued for medicinal purposes. Others are just kept as pets.

Even Dara was being kept at a home in a fishing village at the Tonle Sap Lake before he was rescued by local rangers.

Dara now lives in his enclosure at the zoo where he eagerly awaits the arrival of any female hairy-nosed otter.

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Conservationists aren't sure animal rescue workers will ever find him a partner.

But even if they don't, Dara, whose name means "precious" or "star" in the Cambodian language, is already using his star power better than your average TV heartthrob -- by raising awareness of the need to protect his species.

All About Nature and the EnvironmentEndangered Species

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