One of the most threatened antelopes in the world, the scimitar-horned oryx, has been born at Marwell Zoo.
The female calf named Belle by keepers was born on 27 October and brings the total count to three calves born at Marwell in 2019 alone.
The once abundant scimitar-horned oryx was assessed as ‘extinct in the wild’ in 2000 by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and only exists today because it has been bred in captivity.
Conservation charity Marwell Wildlife, which owns and operates Marwell Zoo, has been instrumental in the preservation and reintroduction of this incredibly rare species.
Marwell Wildlife’s Conservation Biologist, Tania Gilbert, said; “The scimitar-horned oryx was one of the first species we brought to Marwell Zoo when we opened in 1972. Since then we’ve had an incredible 366 calves born here, making them one of our biggest success stories, both in terms of breeding and conservation success.
“Our scimitar-horned oryx have been transported as far as Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, but most importantly we’ve reintroduced groups of oryx into protected areas in Tunisia to re-establish them in their natural habitat. We continue to research the re-established populations and work to enhance the biodiversity of the protected areas where they live.”
The Tunisian reintroductions began in 1985 with 10 scimitar-horned oryx from Marwell and Edinburgh Zoo (co-ordinated by ZSL).
In 1999 and 2007 Marwell co-ordinated the release of scimitar-horned oryx into three more protected areas within their former historic range.
Today, there are around 220 scimitar-horned oryx occurring across five protected areas. All these animals are now wild born following the natural attrition of the founder population, marking an important milestone in the re-establishment of this species.
Marwell Wildlife now focuses on factors that will affect the long-term health of these populations by monitoring and studying reintroduced populations across Tunisia’s arid protected area network, including studying their genetics.
The scimitar-horned oryx can be found in Marwell Zoo’s Wild Explorers exhibit alongside endangered Grevy’s zebra, white rhinos and ostrich.
Update: Marwell announced on 20 November that sadly, Belle suddenly and unexpectedly died overnight.