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Ali Notizie - The English Digest - June 2000
A QUARTER OF A MILLION POUNDS!
Dear Friends and Members,
This issue of the Ali Notizie marks a special milestone in the history of LIPU UK - this year the total funds raised and sent to our friends in Italy has topped the £250,000 mark!
This splendid sum has been devoted to the agreed conservation projects and we can truly say that we are making a difference.
Let us just look back at some of the projects we in Britain have supported:
- The spring Anti Poaching camp in Calabria has been supported consistently over the years.
- Similarly the Anti Trapping campaign in Brescia has received funding support on many occasions.
- Education of the younger people is essential and the centre at Latina has enjoyed our help.
- The reintroduction of the White Stork and the Griffon Vulture have both been helped by us.
- Other projects supported have included reserve land purchase and management at the LIPU flagship reserve at Torrile and many others.
There is no room for complacency as there is still much to be done, but we can look back at the last eleven years with some real satisfaction. I thank you all.
News from LIPU UK
ROGER AND JILL JORDAN
A little while ago, our founders, Roger and Jill Jordan were presented with a beautiful Hoopoe figurine in recognition of their personal contributions to the success of LIPU. The presentation was made by Giancarlo Polinori, LIPU Council member and delegate for Ostia at a small ceremony in Chelmsford hosted by Jean Wilcox. Present, in addition to a few close friends, was Marco Lambertini, the former LIPU Director General, who is now Director Programmes at BirdLife International in Cambridge.
Roger and Jill hold the Hoopoe; we join with our Italian friends in appreciation of their work and wish them the best of good fortune for the future.
THE YEAR 2000 APPEAL
Firstly, the good news! Thanks to the outstanding generosity of all our friends and members the Annual Appeal for 2000 was a tremendous success and we have been able to send to Italy the sum of one hundred million lire, just a little under £33,000. This will be spent on:
1. The efforts, described by Pier Giorgio Candela, to eradicate the trapping of robins and other song birds.
2. Urgently required work on the Raptor Recovery Centre near Parma.
3. The work of the annual Anti Poaching camp as described by Rino Esposito later in this edition.
4. The new project in Nigeria to save the swallows in their wintering grounds. This is also described later in this issue.
This means that the total funds sent to Italy by LIPU UK since its foundation is now £260,000 - a splendid achievement of which we can all be proud.
FOR THE EYES OF CALABRIA
I reported that Calumet Trading, UK importers of Manfrotto tripods had very kindly given us two tripods for the use of the LIPU volunteers in Calabria this year. I had no sooner bought two telescopes than I had offers of two more, and another tripod.
Thank you to Josie Hughes, of Birmingham, and Steve Pilbeam, of Cornwall, who donated optics which they no longer use to a cause where they will make a difference.
The Brabbia wetlands near Varese were featured on the back cover of Ali Notizie of September last year. I have been sent a videotape of the reserve with an English commentary. Walter Guenzani tells me that he will supply the video for the cost of the postage, let me give you his words...
Dear English friends,
Do you know the Palude Brabbia Nature Reserve? No??!! Then you must come and visit it. Set among the pre-alpine lakes in the Province of Varese, it consists of 459 hectares of marsh, reedbeds, wet woodland, sphagnum mires, etc. The area has been managed by LIPU for over 5 years and is equipped for visits.
I think that a straightforward, simple list might be more expressive than lots of words.
---- The naturalistic value of the area is recognised by at least 4 organisations:
A wetland of international importance according to the RAMSAR Convention
An area of special protection according to the Birds Directive CEE/79/409
An Important Bird Area according to BirdLife International
A site of Community Importance according to the Habitat Directive CEE/92/43
170 species of birds, 26 mammals, 7 amphibians, 8 reptiles have been recorded, some of which being rather rare in Italy, such as Ferruginous Duck, polecat, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
But if you can not come and visit us you can at least see pictures of our reserve, on a video (about 15 mins), which we have produced in collaboration with the Province of Varese. In the video you will discover all the beauty of this reserve and appreciate the work which LIPU volunteers have achieved in these few years.
We look forward to seeing you.
DAWN CHORUS IN CALABRIA
Francesco and I were standing in the middle of a narrow and extremely steep lane, way up in some high and remote hills of Calabria. We were listening intently for birds: a woodchat shrike was singing from the top of an olive tree; the trill of a Bonelli's warbler emanated from a small wood further away; a short-toed treecreeper sang briefly and disappeared behind a nearby oak bough; and in the mid-distance there were blue tits and great tits, chaffinches and goldfinches, blackcaps and blackbirds all singing amongst the haphazard array of evergreen oaks, fig trees, olive trees and broom bushes ablaze with yellow. After ten minutes we recorded the vegetation within 100 metres and then made our way to the next listening point.
We were taking part in a national bird survey. MITO 2000 (Monitoraggio Italiano Omitologico) is a survey of birds being carried out throughout Italy during this summer and the next five summers. It is based on listening/watching for exactly ten minutes at each of 15 randomly determined points in each 10km x 10km square; there are 3,200 such squares in Italy and the survey aims at visiting 530 of them each year, ie. 8000 point counts. An additional 2,000 point counts will be made each year within the 150 Special Protection Areas giving a total of 10,000 point counts each year. With far fewer birdwatchers in Italy than in the UK - especially in the Alps, Apennines, the South and the islands - they obviously need some help so, after reading a request for volunteers in BTO News, I offered to help for a week or ten days anywhere in Italy.
Calabria was the area offered to me, luckily; I'd not been there before. Francesco and one of his brothers (Emilio) met me at Lamezia airport, 50 km south of the university town of Cosenza where they lived. Francesco, Emilio, the third brother Massimo, their mother and retired father (a contadino) lived in one part of a four apartment block; the other three apartments were occupied by one set of grandparents and two uncles and their families; cousins were everywhere. My home for ten days was a very comfortable caravan in the front garden, with Sardinian warblers just over the fence, nightingales in the valley below plus alpine swifts and bee-eaters overhead. Brilliant. I had meals, watched TV and enjoyed many misunderstandings with the family; Francesco corrected my mistakes in Italian and I likewise his mistakes in English but there was one "language" with which he and I were equally competent and familiar: bird song.
The "listening points" (punti d'ascolto) were in remote places. Not remote in the sense of desolate mountain ranges, but in the sense of hillsides covered with smallholdings with access via labyrinths of main roads, secondary roads, lanes, tracks, secondary tracks and remnants of tracks! And no signs; tourists didn't go there and the locals invented the labyrinths anyway. So maps were very important. Cosenza University held a stock of detailed maps so, with the help of Professor Toni Mingozzi (co-head of the project), Francesco and I constructed maps by photo-copying, cutting and sticking. The process was not helped by the fact that Italy has a military grid and two versions of a National Grid, none of which match up. And some of the maps were missing; all very Italian!
Each day began at about 05.30. Francesco drove and I navigated towards our several listening points. With about 15 minutes at each point and generally 30 minutes to travel between them we did eight or nine points before bird-song ceased at mid-day. At each punto d'ascolto we fell silent for ten minutes and listened to the distance; far away were cuckoos, hoopoes and green woodpeckers and, nearer, there was a range of species which usually included cirl bunting, nightingale, stonechat, Cetti's warbler and corn bunting.
Based on the data gathered, the ten most common species were: Italian sparrow, goldfinch, tree sparrow, serin, swift, great tit, swallow, chaffinch, Sardinian warbler and crested lark in that order. The least common (in no particular order) included golden oriole, chiffchaff, redstart, robin, wren, treecreeper, firecrest, woodlark, whitethroat, subalpine warbler, blackbird, penduline tit, short-toed lark and woodchat shrike. But between points there was, for example, the gathering of 30 honey buzzards towering around a thermal; several red-footed falcons insect-catching above the plains; rock thrushes' and blue rock thrushes' songs echoing through a gorge; pallid swifts screaming around a hillside flyover; and a lone black-eared wheatear treading the similarly-coloured roof-tiles of a mountainside house.
My afternoons were spent on the lawn under sun and Eucalyptus... with table, chair, field notes, maps and recording forms. We had visited 45 points in all and from the total of 50 or so species occurring within 100 metres of the listening points I chose 20 for a closer scrutiny of the data. Species which occurred no higher than 500 metres above sea-level .Sula.) were fan-tailed warbler, Sardinian warbler, crested lark, corn bunting, tree sparrow and woodchat shrike. Some of our common song birds were absent from that altitude-range and were found only higher up at between 600 and 1,300 metres a.s.l. : chiffchaff, short-toed tree creeper, wren, robin and coal tit, plus firecrest. The species which occupied the widest range of altitude - occurring from more or less sea-level to over 1,000 metres a.s.l. -were serin, blackcap, chaffinch and cirl bunting.
On my last evening I was invited to the local LIPU group's meeting - an outdoor slide show of the group's recent trip to the Pollino Natural Park. The slides, the company, the pizzas (pizze really) were excellent and there was plenty of bird-talk - from raptors in Italy to wintering shorebirds at Titchwell - but perhaps I'll remember most the seemingly endless green hillsides of Calabria with the distant, lilting song of the wood lark and the rich utterings of a thousand nightingales.
If you would like to help with this national survey please write to:
Dr Lorenzo Fornasari, DISAT, University of Milano Bicocca, Piazza della Scienza 1, 20126 Milano, Italy.
Conservation News from Italy
From the President of LIPU
In my role as President of the Association I travel about the country a lot, and my two most recent trips deserve recounting. They were two festive occasions, but very different from each other. The first for a few friends, the second open to the general public. The first was the liberating of Griffon Vultures in Sicily, some 30 years after they had become extinct there. There we were, at Madonie, a silent little group, carefully hiding ourselves and observing through our binoculars the great vultures as they cautiously left their aviary. The real highlight came quickly, when everyone looked upward to admire the Griffons circling in the blue Sicilian sky. The other occasion was the opening of the LIPU Stork Centre at the Parco del Ticino. An extraordinary number of visitors gathered on the open grassy area at the Centre, everyone in a festive mood, and at first rather noisy, but then all fell silent as we dispersed to watch the first storks arrive. It was wonderfully calm, and that is how LIPU continues to grow.
TWO MILLION MAKE THEIR REQUEST
Director and Chief Executive of BirdLife International
In 1998 the French Parliament decided to extend the hunting season from the middle of July to the end of February, a good two months more than the period allowed under the European Directive. But opening the hunting season in July means there will be shooting when many birds are still breeding, and closing it in February has a devastating effect on the populations of more than 50 species that, in early spring, are already migrating across France and the rest of Europe. The LPO (the French League for the Protection of Birds) therefore asked for help from its BirdLife International partners. A combined petition was organised across Europe, requesting compliance with the Birds Directive. It was resoundingly successful: 2,139,256 signatures were collected in 25 countries! It is the biggest petition ever in support of nature conservation. Italy was in third place with 123,164 signatures (and a further 17,000 arrived later): a source of pride for all those LIPU members who supported it.
On 1 March the petition was presented to Mme. Fontaine, President of the European Parliament, who has publicly recognised the great interest in bird protection in Europe, and the commitment to tackling the problem of hunting. This is an example of how the BirdLife network can do so much more for birds than a single organisation acting alone. In Italy too, the hunting lobby has often sought to change legislation, trying extend the hunting season, just as they have done in France. The demonstration of strength which we have shown with our 2 million signatures is important to Italy in defence of the Birds Directive, and is of vital importance for the conservation of all migrating species in Europe.
THE GRIFFON VULTURE PROJECT
Impressive and evocative, the largest vulture in Italy returns to Sicilian skies
Twenty years ago in Italy, the Griffon, Europe's largest vulture, was in danger of becoming extinct. Currently there are various projects for reintroduction and restocking (the reinforcement of local populations which are below survival level), and the numbers are fortunately now being brought back to acceptable levels. However, it will be a few more years before its presence in Italy becomes stable and there needs to be a radical change in attitudes to it. Sardinia is a case in point: In 1997, LIPU, by heavily restocking, managed to raise the breeding population to 41 pairs, but then in the following year there was a sudden drop in the population, caused by a return to the old habit of putting out poisoned bait for feral dogs. This illegal practice dramatically affects the Griffons, as well as many other creatures. The Griffon population has therefore now declined to but 11 pairs and is showing no sign of improving, according to Marco Muzzeddu, manager of the Recovery Centre at Bonassai, who carried out post-mortem examinations on 17 birds found dead in 1997.
In order to reverse this trend in Sardinia, which is probably the most suitable area in Italy to support large numbers of this species, LIPU is about to launch a new reintroduction project at Gerrei, in the south-east of the island. In the meantime, an information and awareness campaign against the use of poisoned baits has been initiated.
There have been various other Griffon projects in Italy. In addition to the ones already completed or still in operation, another big one is just starting, LIPU's project to bring Griffons to Sicily. At the time of writing, the first six birds, three male and three female, have been freed in the Madonie Park. Each of them is individually identifiable by wing markings and radio transmitters.
Over the next three years other individuals will be added to these and there will be several scientific and information programmes to accompany the development of the LIPU project. The guaranteed survival of the Griffon Vulture needs time, as well as a great effort from everyone, with proper management policies and monitoring of the countryside, and alongside a growing social acceptance in favour of the conservation of the species.
AND NOW SICILY
The first six Griffon Vultures are released in the Parco delle Madonne
A small group of people make a short climb before they settle themselves down on a hillside and take hold of their binoculars. In the party are the president of LIPU, Danilo Mainardi, officials from the Madonie and Nebrodi Parks, Forest Rangers, the project's technical staff and other enthusiasts. Meanwhile, before them, beyond the little valley, a few other people are making their final preparations: putting out more food, synchronising the radio transmitters attached to the birds, and getting to their hiding places, with the television camera.
Everyone is concentrating upwards, where Griffons will once again be flying in Sicilian skies after an absence of 35 years. A few of us, Sicilian members of LIPU, remember them before they were brought to extinction by poisoned bait and the long time we have spent without them. A constant, stubborn effort has finally brought victory, and has meant that now, decades later, we have put things right again and on this Friday in May, we are there to await the opening of the aviary.
As if almost to dampen our enthusiasm, however, the Griffons decided not to leave the open aviary right away. It was evening before one of them, observed from a distance by volunteers, considered that it might be an opportune time to take a flight. It started to glide, to fly near the others, perhaps trying to work out if it was still in Spain, from where it had been taken when it was still young, or maybe it realised that on its wings it carried the honour and responsibility to be the first Griffon Vulture, free to cleave the Sicilian skies, and to be given the role of making us still more proud to be members of LIPU.
With its reintroduction the Griffon is once again the largest bird in Sicily, even bigger than the Golden Eagle, which still flies in Sicilian skies. It is just over a metre in length, weighs about 10 kilos and has a wingspan of almost 3 metres.
Up to a few decades ago it was thought that this vulture, from its appearance and from the fact that it feeds on dead animals, was a predator. It was thus put on the list of harmful species and therefore always persecuted. Nowadays, thanks to a better appreciation of its natural history, its role has been re-evaluated. In fact the Griffon feeds exclusively on animals that it finds already dead, and thus it is very useful to the environment, getting rid of carcasses which could be carriers of disease.
An action plan and national task force in support of the most well known of European migrants
It is almost dusk and the dark overcast is pressing down on the plain. A strong wind clears the air to allow a perfect view of the whole arc of the Alps which seem close enough to touch. In the foreground a pair of large black and white birds in flight contrast with the dark colours of evening: they are two White Storks, flying with heavy wing-beats, and in their beaks they carry twigs which they will use to rebuild their nest. After being extinct here for more than three centuries it is now possible to observe these extraordinary creatures once again, due to LIPU's efforts over the last fifteen years. There has been a national action plan for the management of the species and the agricultural environment. Four breeding centres and a national task force to monitor breeding have been set up, as well as several research and action programmes aimed at involving local people and technical experts who are engaged in land management.
Currently, in Italy, almost seventy pairs of White Storks are busily raising young, mainly in the north-west (Piedmont and Lombardy) and in Sicily. A national database registers the annual presence and breeding success of every single nest, in addition to data which comes in from the ringing of those birds which are released from the Centres. We thus have an historic record of the return of the species to Italy, the progress of the population, and we can carefully evaluate the effects of conservation measures.
The Egyptians considered them to be benign creatures, linked to temperance, conjugal fidelity and parental love; for the Greeks they were a symbol of gratitude and filial piety. White Storks have always stimulated man's fantasies, with whom they have shared their breeding sites and feeding areas. Nowadays everyone realises that storks do not bring babies but a new idea is spreading, this time with a scientific base: the Stork is considered to be an "umbrella" species, whose conservation also helps to protect other species with which they share their habitat. BirdLife International has estimated that there are almost 120 threatened species which use agricultural habitats and for this reason too the White Stork has special significance.
Thanks to the measures undertaken by LIPU, the Italian population is steadily increasing. The long-term conservation of the species will depend on policies for the management of the agricultural environment, both international and local, on the establishment of a network of protected areas and the spread of a culture of sustainable development, both in Europe and in their wintering areas in Africa. LIPU, and its European partners of BirdLife International, will be leaders in this challenge which in the end closely affects Man and his future.
THE NEW CENTRE OPENS
7 May will be remembered by many people as a very special day. With the Stork Festival we inaugurated the new LIPU Stork Centre, within the Cascina Venara Park, which LIPU manages on behalf of the Valli del Ticino Park in Lombardy. For us in LIPU it represented a significant stage in our work for storks. The Ticino Park team were our hosts, and everyone who participated in the event, members of LIPU or not, adults and children, were able to enjoy themselves, to be excited and get to know the beautiful storks at close quarters. But, above all, it was the storks themselves who were the real stars on the day. These first seven birds have the important duty of starting off a new breeding colony which will produce young and encourage migrant storks to stay in the area. A pair from the Cascina Centre has already accepted the invitation and has two eggs, giving an immediate signal of hope for the future.
LIPU AGAINST THE GELA MAFIA
An interview with Emilio Giudice on the situation at Gela.
His personal story.
In recent years in Sicily environmental associations have found themselves faced with two kinds of challenge: the safeguarding of protected areas of the environment and also educating the public in legal issues. A striking case is that of the Orientata Nature Reserve at Biviere di Gela, where the LIPU managers are in daily conflict with the local administration, which is influenced by the criminal underworld. The Reserve was established in 1982 - 83, became a Ramsar site of international importance, and has been under LIPU management since 1997. We met the Manager of the reserve, Emilio Giudice, for a short chat.
What are the main problems you encounter in your daily work? "In the Biviere there is a lot of agricultural cultivation under glass, in contrast to the land within the protected area. As we are trying to limit the building of more glass houses, we are in conflict with some sections of the public and some organisations, which accuse us of hindering the economic development of the area".
Have you put forward alternative proposals for the economic development of the area? "We have always believed in the development of eco-compatible activities, such as providing the infrastructure which will encourage the use of the Park itself, the building of footpaths and information panels, observation hides, and services for nature education".
But the problems are not coming to an end here . "The biggest problem is closely linked to the historic social context of the area where there is a strong Mafia influence. For example, within the Biviere itself there is illegal sheep pasturing, managed directly by families which control the town of Gela and which act as a cover for other shady activities".
Have you requested help from the authorities? "We are completely on our own. The Mayor and the council are powerless in the face of the Mafia, so much so that the two town parks, established after years of struggle, are used to pasture the flocks of unauthorised farmers, who cannot be taken to court because they are not registered anywhere".
Have you been threatened in any way? "Yes, when we decided to report everything to the regional and state authorities, but even that was like knocking your head against a brick wall: the notification of the impending investigation was sent by the judge the day before he was transferred to another post ."
So there is a definite lack of political will to resolve the problem? "We have recently informed the Minister of the Interior, the Speaker of the House and all the authorities concerned that we are organising a demonstration, together with the anti-Mafia associations, to take place at the Biviere in June. We thus hope to awaken the civic conscience of all the citizens".
Comment from Danilo Mainardi
The words of Emilio Giudice weigh heavily. They are words which have surely been carefully considered and are therefore even more chilling. A local authority which is "careless" or powerless, "families" which control the town and operate a cover for their other illegal activities. Finally: "We are completely alone".
Emilio Giudice, in Gela, represents LIPU, and therefore represents all of us, but I do not want my words to be only a message of solidarity, that would not be enough. We want to do more than that. LIPU must do all it can to improve the situation that he describes, in a Sicily where, in some parts at least, little has changed.
I was at Gela. I was there that fateful day in 1997, when the management of the Biviere was entrusted to LIPU. I remember the room full of supporters and television camera crews. They did not seem then to be "completely alone". There was participation, there were lots of people who seemed to have understood the importance of the protection of the environment. But there were, evidently, others, and now we are well aware of them.
I have written that LIPU must do everything possible. I have thought long and hard, and what we must do is to report, at regional, but especially at national level, all those who have been acting illegally, and to request most vigorously that the law be properly applied.
There is also something more direct that LIPU must work on, that of raising the civic and ecological conscience of the local population. We have experience in this field and we must use it to the full, so that Emilio Giudice will know that, within LIPU, he is not "completely alone".
IBA PROJECT - A YES AND A NO
The Lago di Montepulciano and the Gargano Promontory are two examples of how at local level Important Bird Areas can be protected
To protect and manage the 192 IBA in Italy, LIPU is following a threefold strategy: scientific research, lobbying and raising the awareness of local populations we have to demonstrate the naturalistic value of an area, verifying the presence of species and priority habitats. Political consensus must be obtained, the particular public authorities and the appropriate regulations which will be used have to be identified and a local group to support the lobby should be formed. It is crucially important to involve the local population, explaining how protection and management of the site can lead to improvements in the economy of the area.
This strategy has proved to be successful in other IBA that LIPU has managed in recent years. One example is the Lago di Montepulciano, a real jewel of a site, surrounded by 300 hectares of wetland, and where there are hundreds of animal and plant species.
After years of effort, this area, which is now managed by LIPU, has adequate protection measures in place, along with environmental recovery programmes and projects financed by the EU. A fundamental aspect of this positive outcome has been the efforts at both political level and among the local population to demonstrate the potential of the site if it were managed as a nature reserve: tourism, environmental education, research and productivity projects involving several local young people.
The effects of the protection measures have been spectacular. The populations of ducks and other overwintering water-birds immediately increased: Bitterns and Marsh Harriers, previously only present irregularly, have become resident and started to breed in the area.
This is a site which, thanks to the stubborn efforts of LIPU volunteers, is now well managed, but unfortunately, the Lago di Montepulciano is not representative of the risks inherent in most of the other IBA. The Gargano Promontory, for example, in spite of being the largest sub-steppe area in Puglia and one of the most important in the whole of Italy, is neither protected nor valued as much as it should be. In its unusual landscape and habitats there are Lanner Falcons, Egyptian Vultures, Ravens, Little Bustards and Short-toed Larks.
Despite continuous attempts by LIPU to improve the awareness of local people, no practical project has been undertaken in defence of these habitats and their species. And so the Promontory, only partially within the Gargano National Park, is subject to many industrialisation projects (gas distribution plants, hypermarkets, leisure parks, hotels, car parks). All this is in clear violation of both the European Habitat Directive 92/43 and of Italian legislation.
It is a situation that is anything but rosy. On our part we have asked the Minister of the Environment to set up a technical forum to study the problems of conservation and necessary compensation, and, at the same time, we are pursuing local initiatives, such as the complaint which the Foggia Branch of LIPU has made to the Minister of the Environment against the development of natural gas deposits in the area of the Promontory.
THE SLAUGHTER OF ROBINS
Pier Giorgio Candela
As for many years now, again last autumn the LIPU's anti-poaching unit was in action in the valleys of Brescia contesting the insidious practice of bird snaring that, during migration, is the cause of a painful death for innumerable and extremely useful insectivorous birds, which are in fact protected by law.
Small birds, mainly robins, are attracted to baited traps and remain for hours hanging by their broken legs. They will then be "harvested", throttled and sold to owners of some "typical" restaurant establishments where the menu includes spit roasted dishes, mainly of robins. We know the area very well where all this happens, San Zeno, the Val Trompia, the Val Sabbia and above the lake at Iseo.
In a single season the Anti-poaching Unit, composed of four volunteers and co-ordinated by Pier Giorgio Candela, confiscated 11,000 traps, with more than 1000 robins and hundreds of other dead small birds, removed more than 70 nets and recovered almost 400 birds from traps or which were being used as live decoys. The presence of the Unit is a substantial deterrent, hindering the poachers and preventing the placing of thousands of traps. Its activities are certainly not welcome in these valleys, and Pier Giorgio himself was shot and wounded in 1995 and has since been threatened again.
For more than twenty years, with admirable willpower and the support of LIPU, Pier Giorgio and his wife Ida Carlini, and other volunteers, have given up their holidays to spend the most critical months of the year, in autumn, patrolling the mountains from dawn to dusk, by almost impassable tracks, in the search for traps.
For years poaching has been little contested by those authorities which are responsible for surveillance. In 1999, however, there was an important change: the Provincial Administration of Brescia for the first time took an official position against poaching, putting their own rangers into action in the worst affected areas. This leads us to hope that something is finally changing and that in the coming years the volunteer LIPU unit can count on more effective collaboration with the professional authorities, to overcome once and for all this shameful and cruel activity.
FROM THE CAMP AT THE STRAIT OF MESSINA
As I write the LIPU anti-poaching camp is still fully active on the Calabrian side of the Strait of Messina. The notice-board, kept constantly up to date by our indefatigable camp leader Giovanni Malara, is full of notices.
From 24 April to today we have counted 8000 birds: most of them Honey Buzzards, but also harriers, 2 Egyptian Vultures, 10 Black Storks and 50 White Storks. There has been intense patrolling of the area by the LIPU and GUFO volunteers, 20 people at a time have kept watch over a 60 kilometre front, from Reggio Calabria to Palmi, reporting poaching activity and thus giving vital support to the police authorities, particularly the State Forest Guards, present in Calabria with 2 helicopters and about 60 personnel.
The number of poachers, after 18 years of camps, and thanks to the indispensable presence of the Forest Guards, has gone down considerably: up to now this year only three poachers have been found shooting Honey Buzzards and have been charged with the offence.
Television items featuring the camp have helped to raise public awareness. Lobbying activities continue, supporting the allocation of funds to the Forest Guards (£1.5 million sterling over three years). These resources will help to tackle poaching not only at the Strait but also in the valleys of Brescia, in the Po Delta and in other hot spots where LIPU volunteer rangers have been working for years.
Cities may not seem suitable for wild birds, but appearances are often deceptive!
The reality is that, on average, at least 50 breeding species can be found there, and even up to 100 if we include migrating, overwintering and occasional species. What attracts a wild bird to the city? In winter the temperature is milder and there are no hunters; a variety of habitats (parks, gardens, rivers, small lakes), food which people put out for them and fewer predators are all factors which attract them. In addition, large buildings and monuments within a city are substitutes for the original habitats of species which are typical of rocky environments.
Let us take Rome as an example: the wide availability of large buildings, churches and ancient archaeological features with lots of cavities supports a breeding population of 40-50 pairs of Kestrels. There are not nearly so many of these raptors in the large cities of the north and centre: 12 pairs in Milan, 1 pair in Turin, while in Florence and Livorno it is being helped to return. There are also Kestrels in Pescara, Naples, Bari, Matera and Cagliari.
Peregrine Falcons, however, more recently attracted to urban areas, are breeding in Naples, Milan and Turin; they are also seen occasionally in many other cities up and down the country. Their main prey are pigeons (37%), and then gulls, blackbirds, swifts and starlings. Of nocturnal raptors, the most widespread species is the Little Owl, and being so adaptable is breeding in at least 47 cities. Other typical urban species are Swifts: besides the common Swift there have recently been sightings of Pallid Swifts in Rome, Turin, Milan, Bergamo, Palermo and Siracusa.
Biodiversity is increased if the city happens to have a river crossing it. There will be more birds, and also amphibians, reptiles and mammals. In coastal cities Herring Gulls are increasing. The first pair was recorded in Rome in 1971, and since then in Genova, Trieste, Livorno and elsewhere.
These examples are of those opportunistic and versatile species which are taking advantage of environmental changes made by man. There are also other examples of species which are more sensitive and less tolerant of human intrusion, and are often in serious decline, such as Barn Owl, Scops Owl, Red-backed Shrike and Hawfinch. The constant monitoring of urban biodiversity is therefore extremely important, not only to know just what species are there but also to be able to manage populations which may become problems and also to protect those at risk.
THE SWALLOWS PROJECT
Saving Swallows in Europe is the prime objective, but if we do not take action in Africa it will not be sufficient
The Swallows Project, organised by LIPU, is a complex programme aimed at stopping the steep decline in its European populations and has had several results. The 130,000 signatures presented to political institutions to bring their attention to the environmental damage which agriculture is causing; the hundreds of items in the mass media which have brought attention to a problem which has been ignored for decades; the actions to save swallows taken by many local authorities; the setting up of new LIPU reserves to protect their roosting sites; support for ringing and research; the involvement of agricultural interests in protecting nests; education activities in schools and the preparation of teaching materials.
It is, however, no longer sufficient to work only in Italy and western European countries, it is also vital to take action in those African countries where swallows spend the winter months: Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic. Here, the flocks spend the night concentrated into certain roosting areas, in millions, and protecting these places would save so many swallows. The main dangers that threaten them are habitat destruction and being used as a source of food by the impoverished indigenous population. Damage is also caused by the use of chemicals which are now banned in the west, such as derivatives of DDT.
For these reasons LIPU, in partnership with other international and African organisations, is taking part in projects in Africa, starting with the largest roosting area discovered so far at Boje Ebbaken in south-east Nigeria, where it is estimated that about 40 million swallows overwinter. The project started in January of this year and after making an initial financial contribution we are looking for additional resources to continue it.
The Boje Ebbaken project has several objectives: to protect the overwintering swallows in their roosting areas, reduce hunting and protect habitat; encourage the development of agriculture and livestock rearing to provide alternative food sources and improve the quality of life of the local population; develop in that population a consciousness of the value of nature; promote the inclusion of the area into the nearby Cross-River National Park.
It is thus a project with implications for both nature and for humans, and is important in this area to thwart speculative economic projects, such as those of the big banana companies which have had their eyes on this area for some time. The four year programme is costing a total of $164,500 (£113,000 sterling).
LIPU AT BOJE EBBAKEN
The first LIPU expedition to Nigeria consisted of 11 volunteers who were there from 12 January to 9 February 2000. They first visited the Ibadan Institute, a university specialising in tropical agriculture, to meet local experts and members of the Nigerian Associations working in the area. Their involvement in the project is indispensable.
Having arrived at the village they started their study and ringing of the swallows, and at the same time trying to develop their contacts with local chiefs and the people. A first extremely important result was the cessation of hunting the swallows, which is estimated to save at least 200,000 birds each season. 5000 birds were ringed, and 8 of them were subsequently found in Europe, 3 of them in Italy, confirming the link between Europe and this roosting area.
To encourage support among the local population for the changes being promoted by the project, on 25 June two young people from Ebbaken, Justina and Stanley, will travel to Italy to study technical principles of stock-rearing and market gardening management.
THANKS TO OUR MEMBERS
OCTOBER FESTIVAL OF TREES AT COLFIORITO
Another bit of the Po Plain has been turned into a beautiful place for birds: the Podere Celestina, in Emilia, has been completely transformed thanks to funds raised by LIPU's Panettoni (Christmas cake) project. Many trees of different varieties were planted at the end of April by LIPU volunteers.
Flocks of waterbirds will find refuge at Celestina, but it will be swallows which will be able to use the new woodland at Colfiorito (PG). Here, at Colfiorito Park, volunteers from the local branch of LIPU will plant trees so as to create a more secure and attractive resting place for the thousands of swallows which use this place as a stopover before tackling the long flight to Africa. The planting will be marked by a Festival of Trees in October.
As this issue of Ali Notizie is being published the trees for the River Ofanto in Basilicata are on their way and will soon be planted. Antonella Vorrasi, local Delegate of LIPU, has been observing and studying otters for many years and has designed a project to protect the habitat and to involve the local Communes, providing a more certain future for this rare species. Our aim is to set up a new LIPU reserve here, and so guarantee a long term future for the trees which you have contributed.
NEWS FROM LIPU BRANCHES
In May, LIPU volunteer rangers and the Environmental Legal Unit confiscated 100 small birds which had been caught illegally for commercial purposes. All the birds were set free at a public ceremony in Naples.
Homes for Swallows Every year the Swallows which come back to Italy run the risk of finding less food, fewer places to nest and an inhospitable environment. Fortunately, however, there are many people who are prepared to help them. Such is the Donati family, farmers in Boncellino, whose roof protects more than a hundred nests. Their efforts have been recognised by LIPU and the Province of Ravenna in a small ceremony of appreciation.
There has been another turn of the screw against Ekoclub, the pseudo environmental association formed by hunting members of Federcaccia to try to get onto the management committees of parks and the ATC, hunting organisations. The Regional Administrative Tribunal of Tuscany has declared that Ekoclub cannot be admitted as an environmental association to the ATC. This is an important step in unmasking the ambiguous policies of the hunters, pretending to be environmentalists in order to get into powerful positions. Complaints have been made against Ekoclub by LIPU, WWF, other associations and the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Lazio.
RESERVES AND CENTRES
NATURE RICH WATERS
Ada Gazzola and Tomaso Giraudo
Crava Morozzo was the first reserve to be inaugurated by LIPU, in 1979. Twenty years have seen the transformation of a forgotten corner of the province of Cuneo into a flagship for nature and a concrete example of efficient management and environmental enrichment.
Set within a long ravine, carved out by the River Pensio in the blue marl which was formed at the bottom an ancient sea, the Crava Morozzo LIPU Reserve contains within its 300 hectares a wide variety of animal and plant life. The now naturalised Morozzo and the Crava reservoirs, constructed in the 1930s to feed two small hydroelectric power stations, are valuable to the natural environment. That is the reason why LIPU introduced protection and management of wildlife projects in the 1980s, recently created a huge pond in front of the Visitor Centre, and also for the environmental improvement measures undertaken by the electricity authority.
Collaboration with the Regional Park of the Alta Valle Pesio has allowed many projects to be completed, providing excellent facilities at the reserve. Close to the Visitor Centre another wetland has been completed, a pool of some 20,000 square metres which is quickly becoming naturalised, and has been settled by amphibians and its first pair of Marsh Harriers. This is in addition to the large-scale reconstruction of the two reservoirs by the electricity company. The most obvious result has been a big increase in bird life, over 200 species have been recorded, including the important breeding success of Tufted Duck (13/14 pairs), and hundreds of Grey Herons and Night Herons.
Enrico Rinaldi, a biologist, now has the task of managing Crava Morozzo and making sure that birdwatchers and other naturalists are aware of this very interesting Reserve. Crava Morozzo also offers a special service for nature lovers. For those who want to stay for a few days or perhaps just one night, the Regional Park of the Alta Valle Pesio has set aside new guest accommodation with kitchen and beds for 14 people. It is an opportunity to go birdwatching at the best time of day, at dawn.
Ennio Critelli - from Genova
Sometimes your membership card comes in useful when you least expect it.
During a birdwatching trip to Tunisia our group was stopped by local police. Perhaps made suspicious by the equipment we were carrying (binoculars, cases, telescope) the two policemen came up and started their routine;
"Who are you, where are you from? . you need special permission to make TV films."
"But we are not filming for television."
"Show us your special permission."
"Just look, officer, this is a telescope, not a TV camera."
They appeared not in the least convinced. While the other policeman was calling his superior by radio they continued to regard us suspiciously. Things were getting more complicated.
"What are you doing with these things?"
"We are not filming, we are just looking!"
"What are you looking at?"
"We are looking at birds, we are birdwatchers."
How do you show an ill-disposed Tunisian policeman that you are a harmless bird enthusiast? Show them our handbooks? Give them a full description of the Algerian Redstart? NOTHING LIKE THAT: just show them our LIPU MEMBERSHIP CARDS, small, but precious, rectangles of coloured card.
A FINAL NOTE OF HOPE
During the LIPU camp at the Strait of Messina, 480 White Storks were recorded in one month. We hope that this large number is a good omen for a very successful breeding season.
A return to News from LIPU UK
LIPU UK AUTUMN DRAW - 2000
This year we relaunch the LIPU UK draw and details are on the attached sheet. I realise that some may not enthuse on this activity and to them I would say, "Please discard your tickets and forgive this means of fund raising". To all others I would say please buy or sell as many tickets as you can and send the stubs with cheques to the promoter - Mike Berry.
We are most grateful to the following for donating prizes:
David Moorhouse (LIPU Member) of Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions 01688 302044 www.ulvahousehotel.co.uk
Leicester and Rutland Wildlife Trust
Bird Watching Magazine for the subscription.
Country Innovations for the waistcoat designed by Bill Oddie.