Experts hope a workshop on otter protection will transform the way Cambodians think about the critically endangered species.
Dara, the world's only hariy-nosed otter in captivity, enjoys a snack in his enclosure at Phnom Tamao Zoo.
AN eight-day otter protection workshop that will include lectures, discussions and field training began in Phnom Penh this week, drawing experts from across the globe to Cambodia - which many called a key location for otter protection.
"This is a very important region because of the variety of otter habitats," said Nicole Duplaix, founder of the Otter Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the opening of the workshop Tuesday. "Cambodia has large lakes, mountain ranges and the Mekong delta, and many of these areas are still wild enough to protect."
Conservationists from 10 countries, students, local wildlife workers and government officials will participate in the workshop organised by Conservation International (CI).
Annette Olsen, research manager for CI, said the purpose of the workshop is to bring international experts together to discuss priorities in otter conservation, raise awareness, improve government involvement and train university students to continue the work of research and otter conservation both here and overseas.
Cambodia is home to four rare species of otter including the previously thought-to-be-extinct hairy-nosed otter, which was rediscovered in the Tonle Sap Lake.
Still more to be done
Duplaix said she was impressed by conservation efforts in Cambodia, but Forestry Administration research and monitoring manger Peov Somanak admits there are still improvements to be made.
"Poverty is the biggest problem threatening wildlife protection," he said. "Hunger makes people do things without thinking. Cambodia does not have an otter fur trade, itself, but poor people are easily persuaded by international traders and local middlemen."
Peov Somanak said another big problem is enforcement. The national status of many species does not reflect local studies or scientific research, he said. But he saw international cooperation at this workshop as a positive sign for things to come.
"If we work together and care about wildlife conservation, we can preserve our wildlife for the future," Peov Somanak said.