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Scimitar-horned oryx saved from extinction in British zoo

Scimitar-horned oryx <i>(Image: Marwell Wildlife/PA Wire)</i>
Scimitar-horned oryx (Image: Marwell Wildlife/PA Wire)

A British zoo is celebrating after its long-term conservation efforts helped bring a rare antelope species back from the brink of extinction.

The scimitar-horned oryx was declared “extinct in the wild” in 2000 but has now been downlisted to “endangered” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List thanks to conservation efforts around the world including at Marwell Wildlife.

The change in status comes following the establishment of a self-sustaining population of scimitar-horned oryx of more than 600 animals within Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve in the central African country of Chad.

The Hampshire conservation charity helped provide oryx for the new population and was also part of the team which modelled the release strategy.

Great British Life: Scimitar-horned oryx in the wildScimitar-horned oryx in the wild (Image: Marwell Wildlife/PA Wire)

Dr Tania Gilbert, head of conservation science at Marwell Wildlife, said: “The change in status of scimitar-horned oryx from extinct in the wild to endangered is a testament to the power of collaborative conservation action, and gives us all hope that we are able to make a real difference and restore nature.

“The species is still at risk from extinction (endangered), but the conservation work in Chad, Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal, greatly reduces this risk and has given the species a real chance of recovery.”

Marwell Wildlife, which manages the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza) International Studbook for scimitar-horned oryx, was awarded the Waza Conservation Award 2023 this year for its efforts to re-establish the animals back in their habitats in Tunisia.

A spokeswoman said: “Marwell has worked with the species since the zoo opened in 1972 and, along with Edinburgh Zoo, donated the first group of oryx to the pioneering reintroduction programme to Bou Hedma National Park in Tunisia in 1985.

Great British Life: Scimitar-horned oryx: the species was declared 'Extinct in the Wild' in 2000 but has now been downlisted to 'Endangered'Scimitar-horned oryx: the species was declared 'Extinct in the Wild' in 2000 but has now been downlisted to 'Endangered' (Image: Marwell Wildlife/PA Wire)

“Since then, Marwell has co-managed reintroduction projects to a further three protected areas in Tunisia.

“Since 2011, Marwell has its own expert team based in Tunisia, who work with local communities to give local park rangers, vets and students the skills, knowledge and resources they need to ensure threatened species have a much brighter future.”

Professor Philip Riordan, director of conservation, said: “Our journey to restore scimitar-horned oryx and its habitats is a testament to the power of persistence and belief in the possible.

“We believe that humanity can correct its past mistakes, and modern zoos and aquaria are perfectly placed to lead these conservation efforts.”



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