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Marwell Wildlife Honoured With Global Award for Work in Tunisia

During its conference in San Diego, the Hampshire zoo collected the 2023 WAZA Conservation Award, recognising the charity’s dedication to conservation over five decades.

In particular it is a tribute to Marwell’s work re-establishing scimitar-horned oryx back in their habitats in Tunisia.

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

Oryx. Picture by Jason Brown

Following this success, Marwell’s team worked to reintroduce North African ostrich with a permanent in country team established to monitor the animals and their habitats.

WAZA represents zoos and aquariums around the world and issues three coveted awards each year.

They recognise environmental sustainability, conservation efforts and the Heini Hediger award for professional excellence.

Marwell was awarded the sustainability accolade in 2022.

Marwell staff
Marwell staff

Professor Philip Riordan, Director of Conservation, 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, said: “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 for the species and the habitat it lives in.

“In the last 30 plus years, more than 80 organisations have supported this project.”

Last year Marwell worked with approximately 160 partners including non-governmental organisations, universities and governments in the UK, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Kenya, Tunisia and Northern Africa.

Their work has helped to give local park rangers, vets and students the skills, knowledge and resources they need to ensure threatened species have a brighter future.

Closer to home, rewilding projects within the UK include work, over a 30-year period, to reintroduce more than 2,000 sand lizards to 28 heathland and coastal dune sites in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset, Devon, West Sussex, and Kent. Numbers have suffered substantial declines due to habitat loss.

This project was shortlisted this week as one of 22 Great British Wildlife Restoration Competition entries from zoos across the UK.

Marie Petretto, Marwell Conservation Biologist in Tunisia, said: “Collaborating with Tunisian organisations is vital in our mission to conserve scimitar-horned oryx in their native habitat. Together, we’re committed to preserving biodiversity, restoring the oryx populations, and ensuring the overall health of their ecosystems.

“This collaboration aims for long-lasting conservation success, inspiring others to protect our natural world.”

Amira Saidi, Marwell Ecologist in Tunisia, added: “Our conservation work aims to restore functional ecosystems.

“In order to achieve this, we strive to include various groups of life, including the scimitar-horned oryx’s very distant cousins: beetles. Beetles can be used as a widely available indicator of ecosystem function.

“These insects will help assess the impact of various interventions and inform decision making to restore functional and diverse arid ecosystems.

“While these bio-indicators can be in favour or against some of the conservation actions, the WAZA award is certainly a major indicator that we are heading in the right direction.”

Source : The News