A WINCHESTER wildlife park has been commended by a worldwide body for protecting endangered species.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) praised Marwell Wildlife for its work with 11 threatened species including the scimitar-horned oryx.

Once abundant in arid-land near the Sahara, the last wild oryx died in the late 1980s due to overhunting, loss of habitat and competition with livestock.

Since then Marwell has reintroduced captive-bred animals to the species former homes in Tunisia, Senegal and Morocco.

Dr Markus Gusset, conservation officer at WAZA, said: “On average, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move closer to extinction each year. If it was not for the breeding efforts in zoological institutions, the rate of deterioration would be even worse.”

Colden Common-based Marwell is continuing oryx projects in Tunisia monitoring the released populations and conserving other wildlife.