MARWELL Wildlife has been honoured by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) during its annual conference in San Diego.

Marwell was announced as the winner of this year’s WAZA Conservation Award, recognising the charity’s dedication to conservation for more than five decades. In particular, the award recognises the zoo’s work to re-establish scimitar-horned oryx back into the wild in Tunisia.

After an 80-year absence followed by extinction across its global range, Marwell worked with partners to re-establish these antelope across four protected areas.

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Hampshire Chronicle: An oryx photographed in TunisiaAn oryx photographed in Tunisia (Image: Marwell Zoo)Following this success, the zoo worked to reintroduce the North African ostrich with a permanent in-country team established to monitor the animals and their habitats.

Professor Philip Riordan, director of conservation at Marwell, said: “Our journey to restore scimitar-horned oryx and its habitats in Tunisia 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.

“This award is not just a recognition of past achievements but a reminder of the responsibility that lies ahead. Conservation is a lifelong commitment to protecting our planet and its biodiversity.”

Dr Tania Gilbert, head of conservation science, added: “Marwell’s conservation work began back in 1985 when we donated scimitar-horned oryx to the first reintroduction for the species. Since then, we have built a resilient conservation programme that has a real-world impact on the species and the habitat it lives in. It has been an honour and a privilege to have been a part of this work.

Hampshire Chronicle: An oryx at Marwell ZooAn oryx at Marwell Zoo (Image: Jason Brown - Marwell Zoo)SEE ALSO: Hampshire powerlifting champion wins gold at international championships

“In the last 30-plus years, more than 80 organisations have supported this project; we are exceedingly grateful to those organisations that have supported us and those that still do.”

Last year, Marwell worked with approximately 160 partners including non-government organisations, universities and governments in the UK, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Tunisia and Northern Africa. Teams worked with communities in these areas, to give local park rangers, vets and students the skills, knowledge and resources they need to ensure threatened species have a much brighter future.

In the UK, the zoo’s rewilding projects include work to reintroduce more than 2,000 sand lizards to 28 heathland and coastal dune sites in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset, Devon, West Sussex, and Kent where numbers have suffered substantial declines due to habitat loss.