Ali Notizie - The English Digest - June 2003

A Review of the year 2002-3

LIPU-UK has a business year which runs from July to June and this fits in well with the way we work with our friends and colleagues in Italy. We've just started a new year and, perhaps, this is a good time to look back on the last twelve months and pick out the highlights before a more detailed report is published with the next edition of Ali Notizie.

Perhaps, just once a year, we might blow our own trumpet, and say that the UK branch has had a very good year - no, it was better than that, it was exceptional!

We try to help the conservation work in Italy in many ways but, probably the most important, is the funds we raise and spend on this vital work. As I write this the accounts are not yet final but the following can safely be said:

Total funds raised was over £75000.

The annual appeal raised over £21000.

Expenses were kept below 9% of the above.

All the four agreed projects were fully funded.

The Oasi Fund was doubled to £68700.

Membership remained over 1000.

The credit for these tremendous achievements is all yours, because without you, the members and friends of LIPU, there would be nothing - Thank You All.

OUR COASTLINE

by Gianni Palumbo and Danilo Selvaggi

"Biodiversity Watch in Italy" is an important new publication from LIPU forming part of its vital work of nature conservation in Italy. It aims to develop

scientific, ecological and cultural themes linked to the protection of the natural and environmental heritage. Each volume of Biodiversity Watch will be linked to some programme of practical activity or action in the field relating to the themes and emergencies to which from time to time the volumes will be devoted.

What is the state of Nature in Italy? What are the risks and threats that menace it in all its aspects? What proposals are being made to change the downward path that is slowly but surely taking us towards environmental destruction? It is on these points that turn the proceedings of the Biodiversity Watch. We must check where it is possible to observe the treasures of our natural world, at the same time analysing its details and distribution and points of special interest. Then we must relate it in its entirety to the world of birds, our particular interest in the complex whole, and finally to engage with the natural world with a different attitude, not only one which is sustainable but also sensitive and responsible. The first volume of the series, as already announced, is intended by LIPU to be dedicated to a theme of great sensitivity and importance, the Italian coastline. This heritage, priceless from a natural, environmental, landscape and social point of view (and therefore biodiversity heritage in the broad sense in which we use the word) is one that is at the gravest risk of devastation and destruction and, ultimately, disappearance.

The 2003 volume, which was officially launched during the 38th National Assembly of LIPU at Chianciano Terme (Siena), is the fruit of a long and complex effort which has involved the editors, the executive board, the conservation department, the entire staff and, last but by no means least, volunteer members of LIPU. These last, among other things, have made possible from a financial point of view the whole project thanks to their part in the Christmas collection in 2001 which was entirely dedicated to the Biodiversity Watch. Among those who have contributed to the volume mention must be made of the great number of experts, environmentalists, researchers and personalities from the worlds of culture and ideas, all of whom have offered their knowledge and informed opinions on the various aspects of the problems affecting our coastline.

The publication begins by analysing the wildlife and landscapes of the Italian coastline (Chapter 1) with a look at coastal habitats, vegetation, wildlife and in particular at the birds which use the coastline as part of their natural environment (for reproduction, feeding and migration). Chapter 2 deals with the dramatic theme of the risks and threats which menace the coastline: urban sprawl, planning infringements, irresponsible tourism, the various illegal activities (amongst which may be numbered a "refined" version of poaching), pollution (not forgetting the problem of jetskis) and oil spills - a most serious problem recently suffered by Spain and one which our own country should not pass over in silence.

However, the Biodiversity Watch adds a third chapter to those describing the coastline and analysing the risks. This one deals with the proposals, ideas, needs and appeals concerned with saving the coastline with particular regard to the Ionian Lucana coast and LIPU's campaign for the last unspoiled beaches of Italy. Here is a prime example of a place where the environmental problem facing a coastline can, in the event, transform itself into the opportunity for a solution to saving that very same coastline.

Finally, chapter 4 is dedicated to the value of the coastline, to its history, its social and cultural significance. Italian researchers and intellectuals have made important contributions with articles redefining the "fragile line which is the coast", partly by pointing up its existence and partly by giving it new significance, lost as it is in the "fog" of uncontrolled and chaotic development. This last has unfortunately bequeathed to Italy a catastrophe without precedent, leaving a space more altered and damaged than we could have possibly imagined for that delicate line between land and sea.

The prestigious group of authors who have taken part in the production of this volume (and to whom we extend our heartfelt thanks), the contribution from the larger environmental associations of Italy, as well as our own BirdLife International, the contribution from the most respected institutions and famous "names" in the history of the Italian environmental and cultural movement, the hard work by LIPU and, above all, the fundamental importance of the subject matter, have made this volume a landmark work. It is a work that perhaps will lead to the problem of our coastline, of our biodiversity of nature in general, being finally addressed with a real sense of responsibility on the part of all of us before the coastline disappears – before it is too late.

The following are excerpts from articles appearing in "Biodiversity Watch in Italy 2003" published by LIPU.

The Italian coastline, a vanishing heritage.

by Fabio Cassola

Coastal environments, varied and outstanding as they are from the point of view of scenery and wildlife, are regrettably the ones that, since the end of the 19th century, have suffered the severest damage at the hand of man, often irreversibly. Historically, this is a recent phenomenon: in little more than a single century the Italian coastline has been dramatically altered. Our coasts, let us not forget, at least until the middle of the nineteenth century, were almost completely intact, and human habitation limited to those stretches where bays and coves provided ports and harbours for fishing boats and cargo ships.

All this was to change with the Unification of Italy. Military and strategic priorities, which had previously been of great importance, had diminished and at once there started a massive road building programme, the railway network was extended and people began to arrive and live along the coasts in ever larger numbers. It was the train that, for the first time, provided the traveller with a view of this landscape. It is interesting to notice how, in a strange reversal of mental perspective, the railway itself became "panoramic", in the sense that it had to make coast and sea both visible and enjoyable for the passenger as he sat comfortably in his carriage. It hardly mattered that the railway, by hugging the coast, altered and destroyed that scenery for all time.

So railway lines are laid in close proximity to the sea, tunnels are bored to allow the train to pass swiftly along steep and jagged coasts, something quite new and disruptive, and it would continue and increase in the following century in a far more invasive and destructive way. The coast remained the preferred route both for ordinary roads and, later, for motorways until today when we have the absurd situation in which only a few tens of miles remain without roads or railway lines, out of more than 5000 miles of coastline.

Birds along the Italian coasts.

by Marco Zenatello

In the past, thanks to the more favourable environmental conditions and to the less widespread presence of human beings, bird populations in coastal regions were well established. Two of the eleven species that have become lost to Italy in the 20th century had managed to hold on in small numbers near the coast. The last sightings of nesting activity of ospreys, which became extinct in the 1960s, were in the rugged coastal regions of Sardinia, the Egadi and in the Tuscan archipelago, where it is still possible to come across old nests.

It was during the first half of the 20th century that the last pairs of the White-tailed Eagle vanished from the Sardinian cliffs, to be declared extinct in 1956. As for the Osprey, a small number are nesting in Corsica and this news raises the hope that attempts to reintroduce the species in northern Sardinia as well as in the Tuscan archipelago may be successful, leading to a return of larger numbers to these areas.

A magical archipelago

by Marco Lambertini

I visited the island of Capraia for the first time in the Seventies. From the mainland, it's a faint dot in the distance, but just visible from the turret of my office/museum where I spent many happy hours as a child, often gazing towards the horizon.

Three hours on the ferry across a deep-blue sea and then, at long last, the cliffs, covered with the most extraordinary plants, which grow all the way down to the water's edge. Rooks and buzzards fly above the little town; flocks of springtime migrants too; and there's the nocturnal screech of the Shearwater, the Mediterranean relative of the albatross. But nothing compares to my first encounter with a gull colony: the frenzy, the intensity, not to mention the screams, majestic flying, and the brawls. It all added up, rather disturbingly, to what Konrad Lorenz called "analogies" with our social living.

It was certainly that experience, the mixture of adventure and discovery that was the spring that set off in me a passionate love for Capraia and the islands of Tuscany, and launched me in my quest for their conservation.

Woe betide us if we destroy these jewels. It would be a disaster for everything that flies, swims, crawls or blossoms on and around the islands. A great loss to ourselves as well, for one day we may all be in search of an island on which to shelter.

An appeal for the protection of the Mediterranean

by Pedrag Matvejevic and Michele Papasso

The Mediterranean is of fundamental importance. The distinct civilisations and evolutionary diversity that exist both to the north and to the south are such as to render unworkable any attempt to reduce them to a common denominator. The mentality along the coasts is often quite different from that of inland areas, and the two are commonly in opposition to one another. The picture the Mediterranean presents is not at all reassuring. The northern regions appear to be lagging behind northern Europe, and the same may be said of the south if compared with Europe as a whole.

The European Union does not seem to take these facts into account: a Europe is being created that is separated from the "cradle of Europe". It's like expecting a person to develop normally who has been deprived of childhood and adolescence. An appeal coming directly from the people could at least help to protect the sea itself, just as it could also assist unspoilt areas, the landscape, the coasts, houses and lighthouses, towers and historical centres.

Saving the Mediterranean, the sea most under threat, is as necessary as it is to hope for a shared, if not entirely homogeneous, vision of the future: its varying cultures and civilisations must be united in its defence, while still retaining their own individualities.

NEWS FROM ITALY

Building development work stopped

At the last moment the bulldozers have been halted in the heart of the Circeo National Park. Irreversible damage has been avoided in a precious wetland, protected by the Ramsar Convention, and extremely important for migrating birds. The work had already begun when, the following day, the National Forest Guards entered notice to the appropriate authorities that various illegalities were being committed. The National Park authorities were strongly criticised with being too permissive, in view of the impact of the project on the precious wetland. All work has now been stopped.

Killing off the Starlings

There has been a proposal from a member of the Provincial Council of Latina to authorise the elimination of 5000 starlings, believed to be damaging olives in Cori and Rocca Massima. Marco Gustin (LIPU) explains, "The plan to kill off these birds is contrary to the most elementary principles of ecology. It would have seriously reduced the breeding population, as they are busy bringing up their young at this very moment. They are mainly catching insects to feed their young and are not damaging olives at all". LIPU claims, too, that there is a dangerous increase, however controlled, in hunting other species, such as Blackbirds, Great Tits, Sparrows, Blackcaps, Cirl Buntings and Stonechats.

Protected wildlife for sale

Two poachers have been charged and 100 small birds confiscated by the Carabinieri Unit responsible for the protection of the environment in Naples and Caserta.

Two LIPU volunteer rangers were also in support. Using nets to catch songbirds is still widespread in Italy. Goldfinches are the main target, but also Chaffinches, Serins, Greenfinches, Siskins and Linnets are taken. The males, prized for their singing, are sold on. The females are used for breeding. A male can fetch from € 5 (nearly £4 sterling) for a newly caught young one, to more than € 500 (£380 sterling) for a top class singing adult. Hundreds of them are caught every day, many of them destined for a long and tortuous journey, first sold in local bird markets, then moved out into other regions or smuggled to countries outside Italy.

THE LAST BEACH

LIPU's campaign to defend the Ionian coast continues relentlessly

by Gianni Palumbo

Do you remember LIPU's "landing" on the Ionian Lucanian coast on the 13 July 2002? It was an extraordinary demonstration in which many of LIPU's activists took part and which was itself part of a campaign in defence of the coast, involving counter information, realistic alternative proposals, protests and various other methods. Amongst these, LIPU's appeal against the project put forward by CIT (the Italian Tourist Company) in Scanzano Ionica (MT) has been allowed by the Basilicata Regional Tribunal, a judgement which also sets an important precedent from the point of view of environmental law.

Through this appeal we have succeeded in overturning the two judgements of the Regional Council which were seeking to facilitate the introduction of private capital through an illegal modification of Regional Statute no 3 of 1990, touching on the provisions of the Territorial Countryside Plans for Large Areas among which, naturally, is that of the Metropontino.

What effect has the judgement had?

There has not been so far any official response on the part of the Basilicata Region. CIT has however, along with the Scanzano Commune, appealed to the Council of State which, very rapidly indeed, issued a court order on the 14 January 2003 that suspended temporarily the judgement of the Basilicata Tribunal. We have therefore requested the bringing forward of the judgement in the matter and the final verdict will be given after the hearing of 13 May. In the meantime, in an effort to block the work already underway, we have, on 7 March, again put forward a parliamentary question. At the same time, the Region is investigating another possible way forward. It is taking up once again the issue of the changes to the Scope of the Local Plan within the framework of the Territorial Countryside Plan.

Other parts of the project not yet under way are also running up against obstacles. On 4 December, for example, under pressure from LIPU, a parliamentary question was put forward over the development of an airport. What is more, no Environmental Impact Study has yet been released by the relevant office, all of which makes it a really serious problem for the Region. In the same way, the Incidence Studies provided for by the law are not being done. On this matter and yet again through the LIPU lobby, a question has been put to the European Commission.

What are we protecting?

The land area in which we have decided to intervene, along with the Committee for the Defence of the Lucana Ionian coast, is of interest most notably from the point of view of the naturalist. The Lucana Ionian coast is in fact a continuous whole comprising 5 SIC (Sites of Community Importance) and one ZPS (Special Protection Zone). Each of the SIC coincides with a more or less extensive area (some hundreds of hectares) around the mouth of a river. In one of these LIPU has been developing for more than a year a project of scientific monitoring and research. The preliminary results confirm that the area is of considerable importance for migratory birds and, without the shadow of a doubt is representative of a part of coastal nature as yet little touched by man. A rare example in Italy, at least as far as sandy coasts are concerned.

THE HUNTING LOBBY AND OUR PROTEST

On Tuesday, 7th May, the Government Agricultural Commission convened a hearing with LIPU, WWF, Legambiente, LAV and LAC to consider Law 157/92 on hunting. This meeting had been arranged at a previous sitting of the Commission to consider the 10 proposals for the modification of 157/92. The procedure that was chosen for the hearing, the absurdly short notice of 4 working days given to the various associations, the time allowed for each of them to discuss eleven years of 157 (roughly 3 minutes) and the absence of the crucial Ministry of Agriculture and Forests report concerning the manner of application of the law (which should provide a reference framework and the fundamental basis for any evaluation), compelled us, after careful consideration, to lodge a protest to what we see as the unhelpful attitude underlying the proceedings.

It is our opinion that the Chamber of Deputies is considering proposals to modify 157/1992 not on the basis of an objective, juridical, or even of a scientific, appraisal, but rather as a result of pressure being brought to bear by the hunting fraternity.

Furthermore, as an example of the serious state of institutional confusion that obtains, at the same time as the Agriculture Commission is debating the 10 proposals to modify the law, the Government (the Ministry for Agricultural Policy in particular) is drawing up, together with the hunting associations, a general policy law, which would override and render irrelevant the work of the Commission. For these reasons, but also because of the vital importance of the causes we are defending, LIPU , together with other organisations, has announced its disquiet and has requested the Commission to put on record a statement listing our objections.

WE HAVE REACHED OUR CENTURY

by Mauro Canziani, Project White Stork

An important result after 18 years of work by the society within home territory

2002 was an important year for the White Stork in Italy. During the last breeding season in fact, LIPU's reporting network enabled us to establish that for the first time since it became extinct nationally in the seventeenth century, there were more than 100 nests present in 11 regions.

In 2002 nesting was recorded in Puglia, after an isolated attempt in 1999, in Calabria after a five year absence, and in Sardinia. In Puglia it took place in the vicinity of Daunia Risi, an important wetland area of the Gargano National Park. The pair nested at a relatively low height, on top of a pile of hay bales, and successfully reared two young. In early March this year they returned and amazingly built a nest once more on top of the hay!

The pair that bred last year in the valley of the River Crati, Cosenza Province, returned after the winter to nest on a pylon. In view of these positive signals, the Rende group has set up an initiative along the lines of our national action plan for Stork Conservation, with the objective of encouraging a new contingent to settle and nest in the area. In the first phase, four nesting platforms have been installed, two of which are on electricity pylons, and another two on iron posts strategically positioned near the site. Thus more storks passing on migration may be encouraged to halt and breed there. The group has also begun surveillance and monitoring of the site to prevent disturbance and poaching.

In 2002, the LIPU Stork Project saw important developments: Italy's first centre for acclimatising White Storks opened at Castiglione d'Adda, in collaboration the Park of Adda Sud. Here the first pair of storks was released on March 21st, and they are currently engaged in hatching eggs in a little nest almost above the aviary.

On April 12th this year, moreover, LIPU opened a second centre in the area of S. Pietro Cusico, Milan Province, with the co-operation of the South Milan Agricultural Park and the Zibido S. Giacomo Commune, in a particularly interesting agricultural area at the gates of the Lombard capital. Both the new structures are being co-ordinated from the LIPU Stork Centre of Cascina Venara di Zerbolu (Pavia), where during March two more pairs were released, again now engaged in nesting.

A third station is under construction near Daunia Risi, a notable stopover for the species on migration, and where, as we have seen, they have returned naturally, so it is all the more important as a release site. Nine adult White Storks were freed at the S. Elena di Silea Centre (Treviso), and five pairs have nested.

Every release is preceded by intensive work by LIPU staff to alert the local population, through the giving out of informational materials, arranging meetings with schools, and public demonstrations. Particular attention has been given to contacts with the National Electricity Board (Enel), with the object of producing effective measure to insulate pylons and cables in particularly dangerous locations near release sites. Electrocution and impact with overhead cables, indeed, continue to be the main causes of direct mortality for the species in Italy. Moreover, the presence of large nests at the tops of pylons which are not so protected may sometimes result, during violent storms, in twigs and branches falling from the nests. The result can be interruptions of the electricity supply, and in turn may necessitate emergency work detrimental to breeding, whether by disturbance or direct damage to the nests. To avoid such risks, LIPU is collaborating with Enel to make available the right experience, as well as monitoring the various phases of the work.

We are hopeful that this encouraging result will be the starting point for a comprehensive programme that will see a more complete return to Italy for this legendary migrant. It is a venture that LIPU took on eighteen years ago, and which with the help of thousands of members seems more than ever possible to achieve.

IN THE CAMARGUE

A place that is easily accessible but gives much pleasure in getting close to nature.

by Nadia Faloppa and Roberto Bartolini

The Camargue is an enormous area of marshes, woods and lagoons in the Rhone delta, in southern France. It has always inspired poets and artists, and in the last few years has become a classic site for nature tourism. Our interest began 15 years ago through wanting to see the flamingos for which it is renowned.

The first record of flamingos breeding there dates from around 1550, and it was again noted by Darluc in 1726. Gallet studied their nesting habits from 1914 to 1947. Then, in 1965, after several years of failures, the Tour du Valat Biological Station was set up to try to save them. This initiative, with the construction of an artificial island in the Fangassier lagoon, gave excellent results, and nowadays over 20,000 pairs can be seen.

The Camargue is also an important area for breeding, passage and wintering for many other interesting species: Spoonbills, Avocets, Shelduck, Hoopoes, terns, Oystercatchers. But the area is not only important for birds. This mosaic of habitats is also populated by the famous white horses of the Camargue, which breed in the wild, its small but fiery bulls, and by a rich variety of smaller mammals and amphibians.

It goes almost without saying that the best moment to see the Camargue is at sunset, when thousands of flamingos fly off to roost.

But there are still problems for all to see. Hunting, which goes on from August to February in areas all round the park, sees thousands of birds stashed into game bags. This, too, results in lead pollution, with many creatures dying of poisoning through ingesting the pellets.

However, these sad considerations apart, the Camargue deserves to be visited in all seasons, we went there for the tenth time this April, and will do so again.

RESERVES AND CENTRES

FIRST LIPU RESERVE IN BASILICATA

LIPU will shortly sign an agreement instituting its first reserve in Basilicata. This initiative has involved the Commune of Tricarico, Medio Basento and the Provincial Administration of Matera. The project started about a year ago with proposals from LIPU. The reserve is a refuge for Red Kites, Black Kites, various species of woodpeckers, as well as wolves, porcupines, wild cats and, along the River Basento, the increasingly rare otter. The former Gagliardi farmhouse is being refurbishes and will become a visitor centre for the reserve and a Centre for Environmental Education.

STILL EVER MORE BEAUTIFUL!

by Mauro Belardi

Since 1997 the Cesano Maderno Reserve, to the north of Milan, has made great progress, the result of a continuous programme of environmental improvement. Only one of the many improvements has been the creation of a wetland of 12 hectares. After three years we saw the only breeding pair of Purple Herons in the province, as well as Little Bitterns, Little Grebes, Kingfishers, overwintering Bitterns and many waders on migration.

The reserve now has 4 kilometres of footpaths and two cycle tracks, as well as a reintroduction centre where are set free into the wild after treatment at LIPU centres, and also a visitor centre. Every year the Reserve organises events and meetings with school parties, while thousands of people take part in guided visits, so many in fact that Cesano Maderno has recently been recognised by the Region as a tourist site.

The Centre for Environmental Education and Training, which will be finished by the summer, has been established in response to a strong demand from schools. There will be a reception area, conference room, laboratory theatre and a multimedia museum, all accessible by the handicapped.

The Centre will be inaugurated in October with a series of rather special events. There will be two conventions dedicated to important themes for 2003, water and accessibility for handicapped people. There will be a concert, slide shows, children's games, invited speakers, workshops on food education, and others. The whole celebration will go on for nine days!

We will be happy and proud to share this moment with all members of LIPU.

THE CIRCEO NATIONAL PARK UNDER THREAT

A draft decree recently published by Minister of the Environment Matteoli will lead to a serious reduction in the protected area of the Circeo National Park. Some 1200 hectares would be reclassified and 150 hectares would be made available for certain types of building development.

Il Gruppo Verde della Regione Lazio is organising a petition against such destruction, to be sent to the President of Italy.

BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL

IRAQ

The environment is also a victim of war. An action plan from BirdLife International.

Marco Lambertini

Director for Network & Programmes, BirdLife International

At the start of the third millennium, when it comes to war not much has really changed from wars in the past. Certainly weapons are more refined but as always, priorities change. Expense is disregarded, collateral damage is accepted. But this article is not about the war itself but rather about an aspect that is forgotten. If the killing of innocent civilians is not sufficient to prevent war it is not surprising that the environment and biodiversity do not feature on the list of priorities.

As war became more likely earlier in the year, BirdLife International published a dossier on the threats to the environment of such a conflict. It was sent to all the governments involved, to the United Nations and its environmental agency (UNEP). It was a delicate step to take but the basic consideration was that during a conflict, and particularly during the period that follows, environmental damage is piled on top of all the other tragedies and makes social and economic recovery slower, more difficult and more costly. The suffering of the local population is even more acute. This is particularly true for the poorest in the population, those who still rely on subsistence techniques, and exclusively on natural resources. If these people lose their natural resources they lose everything.

The article was well received and got impressive coverage throughout the world, including numerous radio and television interviews, and a long article in the "New Scientist", largely based on our data. It was an encouraging response from the press and public opinion.

Risks to nature posed by the conflict in Iraq vary from direct to indirect impact, from desert habitats to the marshes in the south, from lakes to mountains, from rivers to the coasts. The report on the impact of the Gulf War of 1991 gives us many starting points for estimating the effects of this new conflict. Then, the most serious case was the 7 million barrels of crude oil (about 1 million tons) that was run off into the sea, and perhaps another 15 - 20 million barrels that poured out from the wells straight into the desert. In comparison, the "Prestige" incident off the Spanish coast was a matter of only some 10,000 tons of oil, but nevertheless having an enormous impact on the Spanish and French coasts. During the Gulf War it was estimated that some 13,000 tons of toxic fumes were released into the atmosphere, affecting the local population but also contributing to global climate change. Hundreds of thousands of birds, especially waders, were killed by the flow of crude oil onto the coast and by the creation of oil lakes, that became death traps for the migrating birds.

The environment in Iraq has also suffered damage from years of insensitive treatment. Until quite recently the Mesopotamian marshlands stretched for thousands of square kilometres and represented some of the greatest wetlands in Eurasia, and in the world. There now remains no more than 50 square kilometres. This loss of habitat has had a serious impact on biodiversity, with the extinction of several fish and mammal species. There are far fewer fish along the northern coast of the Gulf and the indigenous Ma'dan people, who have made a living from these marshes for 5000 years have gravely suffered from their loss. The surviving marshes are still of incredible importance for biodiversity, as water resources and for their supply of fish to local communities.

At the time this article is being written a team of experts is being co-ordinated by our office in Amman, Jordan, to be ready to go into Iraq when the security situation allows. The objective will be to collect information on the impact on biodiversity and the natural environment, such data then being evaluated together with information on the social impact and that collected by other agencies. We are in contact with UNEP to join forces and co-ordinate actions.

We need to organise immediate attempts to save and rehabilitate wildlife in the areas most affected by the war and then develop action plans for the medium and long term, for the conservation and management of natural habitats. We will work both on the protection of biodiversity and on the conservation of the life-giving functions that the ecosystems provide for the local populations, from water to fish, from irrigation to the regulation of local climates and flood control.

NATURE IN IRAQ

Iraq contains important natural habitats. Wetlands form 5% of the country and are of great international importance. Coasts (5%) are important for overwintering and migrating waders. Deserts (70%). Steppes (15%). Forests and other mountain habitats (5%).

The Mesopotamian marshes, between the Tigris and Euphrates, are the only places where some species of birds live. There are about a dozen species that are globally threatened with extinction and are found in Iraq. The marshes of lower Mesopotamia in the south of Iraq are amongst the most important areas for overwintering and migrating birds in western Eurasia. Huge numbers of waders and water birds of various species spend the winter along the coast of Iraq and use the system of rivers and wetlands on their migration journeys.

Translation of this issue by Alan Morgan, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley

Other News from LIPU

I recently received a set of progress reports covering some of the projects which we in, Britain, are supporting. The following are some of the highlights.

From Claudio Celada, Director of Conservation:

The anti-poaching efforts have been successful and at the Messina Straits the Forest Guards were patrolling with their helicopter. Ten Honey Buzzards were shot on the Calabrian side, too many, but a mere fraction of the death toll of past years.

In the north, over 10,000 archetti traps were found and destroyed, 100 nets were seized and 54 poachers charged.

Ariel Brunner, Species Manager writes:

I would like to give you a short up date about the activities of my IBA & Natura 2000 sector (which is partly financed through LIPU UK's generosity). The following resume deals with activities carried out during 2002 and the first half of 2003 and outlines the activities planned for next months.

Our main objectives, in accordance with BirdLife International's strategies have been: obtaining a full designation of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), setting a country wide monitoring program for IBAs, protecting IBAs and SPAs from destruction or degradation and promoting knowledge and care for those areas both among administrators and officials and the wider public.

During the whole period we have continued our co-operation with the ministry of Environment on the SPA designation issue. As you probably remember, we have been contracted by the ministry to map and update the IBA system and produce a detailed overlap analysis between IBAs and SPAs. This work has been completed by February 2002 and resulted in a detailed designation request that has been endorsed by the ministry and transmitted to the Regional Governments (who are charged with actual designation).

Since then we have engaged in lobby action at various levels, from the EU Commission, to provincial authorities, to try and get the sites designated. Unfortunately we face a great deal of resistance from politicians and pressure groups and the process is extremely slow and difficult. Up to now, only Veneto region has designated its SPAs broadly following our IBAs, even if it left out some key areas. We are now working on this new designation to try and get it complete (mainly ensuring a full SPA coverage for the Venice lagoon). Other regions such as Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany are in the process of issuing their new designations which are expected any day (but are subject to constant delays). We expect those designation to follow our IBAs to a very large extent. Some work is being done also in other regions where expect positive results within the next few months.

There is however a significant number of regions that seem to have no intention in complying with the Birds Directive and designate their IBAs (notably Sardinia, Piemonte, Lombardy, Basilicata and Calabria). On March 20th 2003, Italy was finally condemned for breaching the Birds Directive through insufficient SPA designation. This landmark judgement is helping us to put more pressure on the unwilling regions but I am afraid that only when the second phase of the infraction procedure (the one involving heavy monetary penalties) gets going will the national government step in and push designation even in the most reluctant regions.

We will keep pushing at all the different levels until full designation is obtained on all IBAs.

Recently appointed LIPU Agriculture Officer, Patrizia Rossi reports:

Dear David,

I would like to give you a short update of the activity of my Agriculture sector (which is partly financed through LIPU-UK's generosity). The following resume deals with activities carried out during 2002 and the first half of 2003 and outlines the activities planned for next months.

LIPU is now an active part of the BirdLife Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) campaign. This means that we participate in Task Force meetings, we actively participate to the production of documents on the CAP, the Mid Term Review, set-aside, etc. As you may already know the European Union is discussing of the Mid Term Reform of the CAP that will be ready by the end of June 2003 and at the end of 2006 the EU will adopt the overall reform of the CAP. The BirdLife CAP campaign will have soon an internet website in English.

On the LIPU web site there is a petition addressed to the Minister of Agriculture (Giovanni Alemanno) asking him to work for a CAP reform that will really benefit nature, wildlife, birds and people. It would be very helpful if some messages would arrive to the Minister Alemanno from foreign people. So, please, write him an e-mail!

Note: the address is:

www.lipu.it/tu_petizione_agricola.htm

you must enter your e-mail address in the box "From", name and surname (Gognome) at the bottom of the page.

Another important issue that will be reformed in the UE is the olive oil sector. We will have the opportunity to give an important contribution. This is a strategic agricultural sector in the South of Italy that has a sensible impact on the environment

On the 15th of May, we promoted a field trip with journalists with the aim of showing them the results of some agri-environment schemes realized in the Po Valley (Province of Modena). The agri-environment schemes are a financial tool part of the II Pillar of the CAP that we would like the European Commission would increase as part of the Mid Term Review. Examples of agrienvironmental schemes are: restoration of natural habitat such as wetlands, wet meadows, permanent pasture, restoration and conservation of hedgerows, tree lines, woodlands, conversion to organic agriculture etc. The aim of the event was also to convince the journalists to write articles about agriculture and agri-environment schemes. The event was successful as we already know that:

Airone (one of the Italy's most important monthly nature magazine) will have a special issue on agriculture and ask for our cooperation.

Gardenia (a monthly gardening magazine) and Carta (a politics and current affair weekly review) will write articles about agri-environment schemes.

News from LIPU-UK

LIPU Annual Congress and Elections to Council

Most members will have received a mailing from Italy in May of this year regarding the Annual Congress and the elections to Council and supervisory Boards. This has caused some concern and many have expressed surprise that the expense of this mailing could not have been avoided.

We are all totally committed to avoiding unnecessary expenditure to make the greatest amount of our funds available for conservation work, but, sadly, it's not that simple in this case.

Members in the UK (and, surprisingly, ten other countries!) are in a strange position in that we are all full members of LIPU, just the same as if we lived in Milan or Rome. It follows, therefore that we all have the same right to vote in the election of members of the Council which directs LIPU. Many have said that this is almost impossible without knowing the people involved and others have said that they are happy to leave the matter to those who know the candidates and/or speak Italian.

There is an important principle here because it would be wrong simply to disenfranchise those members who live outside Italy. However, I would like to establish a practical compromise which will satisfy the needs of democracy yet will minimise mailing costs in future. These elections are triennial (the next election will be in 2006) and therefore, I ask that if you wish to receive voting papers in future would you please tell me, either now or at your next renewal. We will then send voting papers only to those members wishing to receive them.

FUND RAISING - AGAIN

It seems that there are as many ways of raising money as there are members. Chris Glanfield of Sussex offered to do a sponsored walk around his local patch and then took my breath away by calling again to say that he had over £600 in sponsorship! His short account of how he did this follows the next piece which could, so easily raise money for conservation and help the environment.

Recycle and help LIPU

It is an amazing fact that over 375 million inkjet cartridges are dumped each year! Most of these can be recycled - refilled and used again, saving users money and the environment the problems of plastic going into landfill sites or being burnt.

A company in Ripon buys cartridges for recycling and LIPU could benefit from this scheme. I am happy to be the focal point for the collection of once used cartridges - unless someone would like to take this on as a way of helping the UK section - and, for a little effort, we can raise money for the conservation efforts of our friends in Italy.

Those who can access the web will find all the information at:

www.empty-inkjet-cartridges.com

For those who cannot, this company is keen to buy cartridges which have the print head built in (such as Hewlett Packard, Canon and Lexmark) - these are the most expensive to make - they do not want the cartridges which are simply an ink tank with no jets, such as those for Epson printers. However, if you're not sure just send them to me anyway and I'll sort it out. Many schools already run schemes like this for cartridges which have been used just once from new, but many companies don't have theirs refilled and the empties just go in the bin!

If these can be collected we can do something for the environment and for LIPU, so please collect all once-used cartridges and send them to me, the only cost falling on us that is the postage to me, after that it is all freepost. Turn your empties into money!

Chris Glanfield writes:

I just wanted to tell you how easy it is to raise money and have fun at the same time. Sponsored walks or bird counts (where you try to see as many different species as possible) don't have to be a major task.

I phoned David to ask if it was OK to do a sponsored walk for LIPU-UK. He, of course, agreed and sent me some sponsor forms. Next, I was to decide how far to walk and the location. I chose Dimping golf course and Littlehampton sand dunes reckoning that the walk (and birding) would take about three hours.

I then set about asking friends and family to sponsor me, or, alternatively, if they'd like to join the walk. I soon went from one to four! My daughter and two close friends, Richard and Keith, joined in and went about seeking their own sponsors.

We chose a date that suited us all and started at one cafe, finishing at another. Perfect! The walk was fun and we saw many good birds, including Sandwich Terns, Yellow Wagtail and Little Owl - all firsts for the year.

The walk was relaxed and we raised just over £600. We would probably have been birding anyway and would possible have walked a greater distance on the day. If you want to do a sponsored walk, you don't have to walk a great distance - your local park or reserve would be just fine. The date, route and distance are all decided by you - so, go on, give David a ring and do something special and enjoy yourself in the process for a few hours. Getting a friend to join in makes it even better. Good luck.

To the other side of the world, an account of a holiday in New Zealand by member, Pamela Tew.

Songbird Island

by Pamela Tew

Most people who visit Tiri Tiri Matangi island hope to see the rare Takahe with its iridescent blue and green plumage and large brick-red beak. This flightless New Zealand bird was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1948 and can now be seen roaming freely on this little island sanctuary off the coast of Auckland. I came across a pair while having my picnic lunch on the grass near the hill-top visitor centre. The impressive Takahe ignore the "No Feeding" signs and waddle up to messy eaters hoping for a dropped crust or apple core. They are invariably successful in their quest, more by persistence than indulgence on the part of visitors. They were the most tame wild birds I'd come across, certainly more curious than their close relative, the common Pukeko, which kept away from the visitors and could be seen scratching for grubs in the grass.

The Takahe and other native New Zealand birds have become endangered largely because of habitat destruction and predation by introduced mammals such as dogs, cats, stoats and possums. Tiri Tiri Matangi (means "buffeted by the wind" in Maori) is now completely predator free. Thanks to 10 years of hard work by volunteers, adults and school-children alike, this once agricultural island has now been replanted with over 250,000 native trees to accelerate natural regeneration. It has now become one of New Zealand's most important and exciting conservation projects and is one of only two open scientific reserves in the country.

It was a fine sunny day in April of this year when I visited the Tiri Tiri Matangi, about 40 minutes by ferry from the city. The bush walkways and tracks, again built and maintained by volunteers, take you through seashore, scrubland and forest habitats where the protected birds live, feed and nest. From higher ground the views over the island and gulf beyond are spectacular, particularly on cloudless days. New Zealand forests are quite unique, with their primitive looking tree ferns, flowering pohutukawa trees and perching lilies. Once inside the forest the birdsong is joyfully noisy; very eloquent and melodic with a complexity even greater than that of our Northern European species. The Tui in particular stands out as the soloist and accomplished mimic, with its remarkable liquid bell notes, grunts, coughs and chortles. Apparently it can make notes at 21 kilohertz which are too high for the human ear and can imitate practically every bird in the forest. As the birds here have no predators, they are quite unafraid of people and can be seen easily without binoculars. I only had to stand still for a minute to see another rare protected species, the Stitchbird. The male is easily identified by its bright yellow shoulder patch; these colourful feathers were sought after by Maoris in the past for decorating cloaks. Interestingly, the Stitchbird is the only bird in the world to mate face to face. Both the Stitchbird and the olive-green Bellbird are honeyeaters so the island has been planted with wattle trees to provide nectar rich flowers while the slower growing flowering natives mature. I watched entranced while a Bellbird fed on a wattle flower then stopped to sing its flute like song.

One of the most comical and endearing common birds of New Zealand has to be the much loved Fantail. Here on the island they thrive as they do everywhere else. I found it very entertaining to watch its restless flight, as it darted around fluttering its fan-shaped tail, stopping in mid-air then chirping as if to beckon me to follow. I was told by a friend that the Maoris believe that when you see a Fantail it is really the spirit of one of your ancestors come back to visit you. Our guide, however, explained that the practical Fantail wants you to move through the undergrowth disturbing the leaf litter and with it any grubs and insects hiding under the surface. After you've gone, the fantail will drop to the ground and feast on his tasty snack.

I was also lucky to see the Red-Crowned Parakeet as it flew across my path while I walked through the cabbage trees in a more open section of the forest. The vivid green feathers of this bird were also used by Maoris for costume decoration. Early settlers record thousands of parakeets arriving in the Autumn as corn ripened in the fields. Now they are rare on the main islands and only spotted here and on two other small islands. I was pleased to see some Saddlebacks, saved from extinction 40 years ago by conservation workers who braved very rough seas off the South Island to move the few remaining birds from rat-infested to predator free islands where they have happily increased in numbers. These unusual birds, members of the wattlebird family, have no close relatives anywhere else in the world and can live up to 17 years. The Saddleback is named as such because of the large russet marking on its back, reminiscent of a saddle. I was also hoping to spot the very rare blue pigeon-like Kokako, also a member of the wattlebird family. Some members of our group had seen one earlier in the day, but I was not so fortunate. Apparently it has a sad, haunting call, rather like organ notes, and is heard mostly at dawn.

Overnight visitors to the island often hear the harsh screeches and whistles made by the Brown Kiwi, sometimes glimpsing its waddling backside by torchlight as it shoots back off into the undergrowth - one of the more timid of the island's fauna. Blue Penguins can also be seen at night from August to March as they scurry back from the Ocean to feed their young in nests near the shore. Specially constructed stone nesting shelters with Perspex lids for observation lie ready for next season's breeding pairs. And in the early morning, overnight visitors are treated to an unforgettable dawn chorus before taking the ferry back to the city. I realised that my own ferry was due to leave in a few minutes so I hurried down to the pier to say goodbye to the rangers Ray and Barbara. When I mentioned I was from England they told me that David Bellamy was very much involved with the project here at Tiri Tiri Matangi, and has cited it as a "shining example to the world of effective community action in island restoration ecology". It's a very long way to travel, but if you're ever in New Zealand I would recommend you put this little island paradise on your list of places to visit.

For further information please see www.tiritirimatangi.co.nz

ENCOUNTERS WITH BIRDS

...in prose and poetry

I still have a few copies of this book by Graham Bell of Northumberland for sale at £5 each, this includes postage and packing and a donation to LIPU funds.

A SURPRISE FROM THE INLAND REVENUE

A new scheme, starting in April 2004 will allow people who complete a Self Assessment tax return to nominate a charity to receive all or part of any repayment due to them.

The Inland Revenue repaid around £3 billion to tax payers last year and the new scheme will have real advantages for participating charities:

The donation will be paid direct to the charity's bank account.

The form will incorporate a Gift Aid declaration.

Gift Aid will be paid without the charity having to make a claim.

Charities will be able to benefit from Gift Aid on anonymous donations.

The Gift Aid scheme is well established and generates over £8000 per annum for us, so I look forward with interest to this new measure - more details when they emerge.

BRITISH BIRDWATCHING FAIR 2003

This fair has become a model for all the others and just goes from strength to strength.

It amazes me that people pay a good deal of money to be allowed into a large field where the only thing to do is to spend even more money! Every year more people attend and the amount given to BirdLife International breaks yet another record.

LIPU-UK will be there with a newly remodelled stand, so, if you are visiting this year, please call at the stand and say "Hello". As in previous years we are sponsored by Carl Zeiss UK which covers 75% of the cost of our stand. Thank you, Carl Zeiss.

FRAMMENTI

Frammenti, our e-mail bulletin has proved very popular with the 140 or so members who receive it. I am sure many more members have e-mail so drop me a line if you'd like to receive Frammenti. Your address is given to no-one.

mail@lipu-uk.org