PHNOM PENH -- The world's only captive hairy-nosed otter is living in a new home in a Cambodian zoo, in a move conservation officials said Wednesday could help ensure survival of the rare species.

The young male named Dara was released into its new home Tuesday at Phnom Tamau Zoo, located near Phnom Penh, said representatives from Conservation International (CI).

Two Buddhist monks walked into the enclosure with Dara to bless the animal's new home, following Cambodian tradition.

"Scientists recommend establishing of a breeding population in captivity to ensure survival of this species," said Annette Olsson, a CI researcher in Cambodia.

"Dara could be the founder of such a captive population, if and when we find him a wife, of course," she said.

The animal, a member of the rarest of otter species, had a fraught journey to the enclosure. It was first rescued when its mother was killed by a fisherman in Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake, Olsson said.

Dara then lived at the Angkor Zoo in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap, she said. But authorities closed the zoo last year after scores of rare animals disappeared or died.

Hairy-nosed otters were thought to have been extinct until they were re-discovered less than a decade ago.

They are now known to live in a few areas in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Sumatra, and are threatened by illegal fur trade and loss of habitat due to climate change.