Ali Notizie - The English Digest - March 2003

Editorial March 2003

The last few months has had an air of inevitability with our leaders bent on a course of destruction and oblivious to the clearly expressed views of millions of the people they represent.

This editorial is not about the politics of the war which started yesterday; even after a career in the armed forces which included the last Gulf War, my only wish is that our men return safe and sound and for the minimum harm to come to Iraq and her people.

However, what of the cost of this conflict which few will count? Michael Rands, Director of BirdLife International said in his leader in World Birdwatch (Mar 2003):

"We are all aware of the immediate threats of warfare to people. It is often forgotten, however, that war usually causes devastating and irreparable damage to the natural environment and consequently reduces the quality of peoples' lives long after hostilities cease. Following recent conflicts across the world, the environment has suffered enormously with the air and water being seriously contaminated, fragile habitats destroyed and some species being driven closer to extinction.

BirdLife responded quickly to the environmental devastation caused by the Gulf War in 1990/91. Teams from the UK, Spain, Japan and the US provided technical and financial support to the BirdLife Middle East network to assess the damage following the largest oil spills in history, 6 - 8 million barrels of crude oil spread along 560 km of coastline. Much effort went into cleanup operations but inevitably the environmental destruction was massive and long lasting.

War in Iraq is likely to have direct impact on biodiversity from Siberia to South Africa. In Iraq itself, war could destroy one Endemic Bird Area (the Mesopotamian Marshes), 42 Important Birds Areas and key populations of 16 Globally Threatened and Near Threatened bird species. Nuclear, chemical and biological contamination, oil and atmospheric pollution and the physical damage caused by mass movements of weapons, troops and refugees are likely to damage the earth's water, air, forests and other natural habitats. Species, sites, habitats and people throughout the world will all be severely affected.

For the sake of future generations, let us all call for longer term environmental considerations to be taken into account by those involved in current and future conflicts, both in deciding whether to go to war and even during and after the action itself."

I am finding that a way of looking away from the insanity of current events is to celebrate the annual miracle of a British Spring, the first migrants arrived in our area last week and we have been admiring the progress of two pairs of Long-tailed Tits as they build their exquisite domed nests – how much better and more peaceful are their lives than ours?

From the President of LIPU

Danilo Mainardi

The most recent proposals for laws concerning the environment seem to be hammer blows being delivered as if there is actually a strategy deliberately to dismantle what remains of the natural world. The decriminalisation of offences, massive construction projects, the destruction and putting up for sale of the natural heritage, attempts to give ever more space to hunting activities, all seem to be done on purpose to appease an increasingly uneducated electorate and at the same time to meet arrogant economic demands. Would this be environmental policy? Unfortunately it is only a policy of destruction, a policy that is suicidal in the long term and now being foolishly pushed forward, because you need to be utterly shameless to propose using wild animals for pet-therapy, when it is known that it is mainly the bond that can be established between the animal acting as therapist and the sick person that is the effective force in this innovative treatment. But if you are really lacking in conscience you can hand over an extra opportunity to those people who still think that to attack the life and liberty of wildlife, already suffering from environmental degradation, can be made into a sport.

Some people would become disheartened when they realise the enormous power of this destructive policy, the making of imbalances, of the favours given to those who, with impunity, in one way or another are delivering those hammer blows I mentioned earlier. But one thing has happened recently that can only give us all a lot of hope. I refer to those millions of people in Italy, in tune with millions more people all over the world, who have given a clear "No" to the war. It is an important message in its spontaneity, and perhaps also for the way it has swept aside the claims of politicians who are always ready to expound well rehearsed as well as incomprehensible arguments. The demonstrators are human beings with diverse biological and cultural characteristics, who acted together in waving the symbol, a banner inscribed with the word PEACE. They were so many different people, as I said, but people like us, we of LIPU, because people who have the word peace as a common denominator can only be people who are fountains of voluntary service, who represent the most noble side of humanity, the most altruistic. It is difficult for people who want peace, who are against human beings shooting at each other, to be in favour of environmental destruction, particularly hunting.

There are sound scientific reasons for being against hunting, but in addition to them, in a world disturbed by the winds of war and destruction, it is important to reinforce, in our consciences, the need for respect for life and its diversity.

THE JORDAN VALLEY

BirdLife International protects one of the most important migration sites in the world.

by Marco Lambertini,

former Director General, LIPU

Think of a valley, in the heart of the Middle Eastern deserts, between Africa, Asia and Europe, where runs a little river great in history. And think, if you can, of a traffic of over half a billion birds of around 300 species passing through it twice a year, from the tiniest such as Lesser Whitethroats to the greatest and most majestic such as Spotted Eagles and White Storks. The Jordan Valley however is a place where reality exceeds the imagination. In February 30,000 cranes gather on the fields and marshes of the Hula reserve, in March the sky is clouded with the wings of at least 300,000 White Storks on passage, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of raptors and the millions upon millions of smaller migrants.

Passage and resting place, migration and wintering, we are speaking of what is certainly one of the most crucial IBAs of the planet.

The Jordan Valley, between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, is in essence the start of the immense Rift Valley, the tectonic fault that runs the length of East Africa. Here at the northern end, where Mediterranean, Turko-Iranian and African characteristics mingle in an incredible mosaic of species and habitats, occurs one of the most important and congested migration routes in the world.

Enormous contingents of birds from central Asia and east and central Europe funnel through this bottleneck before fanning out towards the savannahs and tropical forests of Africa, the winter refuge for around half of Europe's species.

Nature and conflict

But as happens so often, a pristine nature has the demands and follies of humankind superimposed on it, so that this most heavily populated migration route between Africa and Europe has for decades been the theatre of a bloody political conflict, the Palestine question.

The conservation of nature must be kept apolitical - easy enough to say - but not easy to achieve in areas with such ethnic, religious and political divisions. But at least one great lesson comes from this part of the world, in the collaboration between the nature conservancy organisations of Israel, Palestine and Jordan, all partners in BirdLife International.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature in Jordan and Wildlife Palestine continue to work together in these difficult times, with the co-ordination of the Secretariat of BirdLife International, to safeguard the IBAs of the Jordan Valley.

Conservation and Education

The project is financed by the EU, and has as its objectives the involvement of agriculturists in the use of methods favourable to migrating birds, the development of plans for management and monitoring for the network of IBAs within the valley, the creation of environmental education centres, and incredibly, the encouragement of eco-tourism. The programme for agriculture aims at limiting the use of pesticides, encouraging people's tolerance of the presence of large numbers of migrating or wintering birds, and developing new activities for the local economy. In the flat and fertile fields around the Hula reserve in Israel have sprouted many posts with at the top little log cabins as it were, in fact nest boxes for Barn Owls, looked after by the farmers; in such numbers too, and in such an unusual environment, so open and flat. In fact, this ongoing project of several years' duration has demonstrated that Barn Owls are the most effective and economic method of controlling the explosions of rodents in the area. The result: low but stable populations of rodents, still sufficient to provide food for storks and raptors on migration, and a major reduction in the use of poisons for their control.

The Kibbutzim of the area have also discovered the value of birding-related tourism. And if the current social situation is not exactly friendly to international tourism, there are thousands of native enthusiasts giving domestic eco-tourism a boost.

In a park at Jericho in Palestine, the project is equipping a centre for environmental education for schools and adults, that intends to recreate the local semi-desert environment, a ringing area, and a recuperation centre for injured wildlife. In Jordan, attention is being given to the management of the Wadi Mijib, the outlet of a small but permanent stream coming from the surrounding mountains into the Dead Sea, and of great importance for resident and migratory species.

Lessons in Peace

I must say that, in my position on the management committee for the project, I have been moved and encouraged by the results. There has been no lack of difficulties, as one might expect. For example, the committee has had to meet in Turkey or Cyprus, owing to the restrictions on movements between the countries of the region. In spite of that, the determination and enthusiasm of the participants has still produced results on the ground. War rages on, alas, but life beyond it continues, and people remain devoted to the natural world, perhaps also to find a little corner of peace and serenity.

It is true not only that nature conservation cuts across the political, but that conservationists can teach much to the politicians. From the Jordan Valley comes a lesson in peace and co-operation, where Palestinians and Israelis come together in their passion for the protection of this phenomenal ensemble of scenery, actors and processes that is Nature. With its protagonists and dramas... the amazing fruit of millions of years of biological evolution or miraculous Divine creation, whatever you believe, whatever God goes with you.

AGRICULTURE

Plans for Rural Development and Biodiversity

by Patrizia Rossi

Ali Notizie is only one of the many places where you will have read that rural environments are important for the conservation of biodiversity. It is not just by chance that birds which rely on agricultural habitats are the ones that are most in crisis at the European level. Their dramatic decline, which has not shown any signs of being reversed in the last ten years, is something that is also affecting species of other habitats, such as wetlands.

Responsibility for this crisis is attributable to the Common Agricultural Policy, which has now been running for some 50 years and currently absorbs 50% of European Union funding. In 2001 more than 47 billion Euros (about £30 billion sterling) was spent on supporting, through subsidies, an intensive agriculture that produces excessive quantities and causes significant damage to the environment, such as reduction in biodiversity, pollution, the over-exploitation of water resources and soil erosion.

In order to try and reduce overproduction, in 1992 the EU introduced the so-called "second pillar" of the Common Agricultural Policy, aimed at financing rural development: in fact supporting those farming enterprises that were using agricultural practices more in tune with the environment and taking some land out of production for environmental reasons. The "second pillar" represents, however, only 7% (a little more than 3 billion Euros) of the whole of the CAP fund.

To organise this system of support for farmers for "rural development" each Region in Italy must provide a Rural Development Plan describing accurately what measures they intend to take. Amongst these there are some that are clearly environmental and which might represent important methods of conserving biodiversity. On the other hand, others, such as reforestation, improving the economic viability of forests, land improvement, etc. could also makes things worse for the environment.

LIPU has carried out a study to try to understand what the effects might be of these Development Plans on biodiversity and in particular on Zones of Special Protection and IBA (Important Areas for Birds). We have analysed all the Regional Plans and from the preliminary results it emerges that the agro-environmental measures that have given the most positive results are " the taking out of production of agricultural land for a period of twenty years for environmental purposes" (such as creating wetlands, water meadows, areas of native Mediterranean scrub, etc.) and " the introduction and maintenance of those things that are characteristic of the agricultural ecosystem" (such as hedgerows, dry stone walls, lines of trees, woodlands, water meadows, springs). Unfortunately only 4 Regions have so far put forward their own Regional Plans.

Reforestation is a threat to open areas of meadows and grazing land, which are essential for the survival of species such as Corncrake and Little Bustard; none of the Regions sees that it is their duty to evaluate the effects of such developments, which are potentially damaging in areas where there are species that need open habitats.

All the Regions finance integrated agriculture (not to be confused with biological agriculture!), which is different from traditional systems where, for example, pesticides are used as and when they are needed and not just by the calendar. In our opinion it should be obligatory to do that and is a minimum condition for the receipt of CAP subsidies towards production. In view of the low funding levels for Plans for Rural Development, many Regions have also reduced the amounts being made available for agro-environmental projects in favour of others that are often damaging to biodiversity and birds.

During 2003 the Plans will be subject to evaluation, when we will use the results of this study to ask Regions to bring in big improvements in land management.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY - LAWS AGAINST NATURE

Whatever is going on in our country? Just read the details of the serious situation in which Nature in Italy is suffering.

by Danilo Selvaggi

HUNTING AND WILDLIFE

There is no let up in the assault on Law 157 (which protects wildlife and controls hunting). The nine bills put before the Agricultural Committee of Parliament had been reduced to eight following pressure from LIPU and the other environmentalist associations which had pushed Deputy Rizzo to withdraw his own proposal. However a new bill (sponsored by Deputy Pezella) has promptly appeared which, under the noble banner of Pet Therapy, would permit the keeping and even the capture of wild animals. There has been a general mobilisation by LIPU and the whole environmentalist lobby to stop these nine proposals which would permit, among other things, hunting from August to March, an increase in the numbers of huntable species, a drastic reduction in the taxes on hunting not to mention hunting in the national parks and other protected areas. What is more, they propose the removal of penalties for hunting crimes and in a word, the end of the status of animals as part of the inalienable heritage of the state.

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES

On the question of "environmental crimes" yet another worrying emergency has arisen: the Minister of Justice, Castelli, is actually proposing a law through which the greater part of crimes against the environmental laws, even the most serious, would be able to benefit from the removal of penalties. They would as a consequence be reclassified as simple administrative misdemeanours. The proposal provides for the removal of penalties on crimes related to hunting, to pollution and to planning legislation as well as to the traffic in species protected under the Washington Convention and more. Such an idea would, to sum up, constitute a very serious blow indeed to the existing framework of law protecting the environment.

PARKS AND PROTECTED AREAS

Felling, the redrawing of boundaries, opening up to hunting: the attack on the framework of the parks and the protected areas is about to show itself in all its force. Among these attacks is the Brusco bill which has already for some time been lying menacingly in the drawers of the lower house of Parliament. This bill if passed into law, would radically transform law 394 removing the greater part of the protective clauses, which at the moment look after the interests of the parks. And we have not even mentioned the "drama" of Network 2000, the great network of protection provided by the European Union and at the present moment ignored by the greater part of the Italian regions.

PIRATES BESIEGING THE COASTS

The coast, that extraordinary part of our land (the beaches, the cliffs, shorelines of all descriptions) rich in precious natural habitats and cultural treasures is living ever more under the scourge of concrete, of irresponsible tourism and abusive neglect. From the Ionian shore of Lucania to the coast of Syracuse, from the cliffs of Luino to the shores of Campania and the rest, the siege goes on in one form or another: whether it be urban sprawl, oil pollution offshore, poaching or unplanned development. No serious plan to relaunch the protection, all these years on from that provided by Galasso law, seems to be on the horizon yet. Within a few weeks, however, the report of LIPU's Biodiversity task force will provide a full account of this crucial topic.

OUR ENVIRONMENTAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE

Under the provisions of the so-called Patrimonio Spa, the law that transfers to the company of the same name (and thence to its various departments) the national heritage, both environmental and artistic, a new and worrying chapter has opened on the future of the treasures of our country. The Italian government has frequently defended itself, maintaining that our most precious treasures will never, in any way, be privatised and yet the worries of environmentalists and of the cultural world alike have shown no sign of going away. The question that we ask yet again is the following: if the cultural and environmental heritage is never to be given up, what was the reason for passing this law? Even if the most well known treasures are not to be cast off, what of the lesser ones those small but extraordinary treasures which enrich Italy from north to south? Is it conceivable that any state should be able to hand over the beauties of its heritage?

THE BRIDGE OVER THE STRAIT, "MAJOR WORKS"

There has been no easing in the arguments and worries over the "Major Works" programme, that river of new projects (motorways, diversions and other engineering works) which will bring about a massive and devastating impact on our ecosystems. Among these, obviously, is that of the Bridge over the Strait, a project as grandiose as it is risky and, as is now clearly understood, above all quite useless.

Under serious threat, moreover, is the working of VIA (Evaluation of Environmental Impact) which should filter out projects dangerous to the environment: the new procedure excludes the Ministry of the Environment from the matter leaving the way open to the Ministry of Public Works. It is like telling prisoners to guard themselves!

ECOLOGY

The Ecological Footprint is a method of calculating the impact of our life styles on the planet

by Martina Pignataro

A group of scientists, led by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, have come up with a way of calculating the earth's load carrying capacity, measured as the area of land needed to produce resources consumed and dispose of the ensuing waste. An activity is said to be "sustainable" when the resources consumed are not beyond the planet's capacity to regenerate. This is the Ecological Footprint and can be calculated for a single person, for a community (a town, city, province, region or a whole country); it can also be applied to a single production process or to a complete economic system.

By calculating the planet's resources and the current population, each person has at their disposal an average area of some 1.7 hectares. In fact, this "limit of sustainability" has already been exceeded in some places as the current Footprint per head of population is about 2.3 hectares amongst populations that have a major impact, with an excessive consumption of available resources, while others are using resources at a lower rate and put lower pressure on the planet.

In analysing different life styles, the Ecological Footprint is an efficient way of demonstrating the impact of our daily lives and the unsustainability of current economic models, especially in view of increasing populations.

There are various programs for calculating one's own Ecological Footprint and for showing how behaviour and consumption have an impact on the earth's resources.

There are simple daily choices that can lower each of our own Ecological Footprints: using motor vehicles less, to reduce emissions; choosing environmentally friendly products (by favouring extensive rather than intensive farming practices; by preferring local products; by cutting down on the consumption of oil and its derivatives); reducing waste in general and unnecessary consumption by adopting moderate lifestyles would surely be a first important step towards a greater sustainability in our own lives.

Spreading these ideas is the next step to involve more people in the building of a better world, environmentally more sustainable but also more "liveable" from an ethical point of view, based on respect for biodiversity and on a more sustainable and rational use of the earth's resources.

How much do we "weigh" on the earth?

Countries have various impacts. Calculations show how much surface area in hectares is "consumed" by each head of population:

USA 9.6, Canada 7.2, Netherlands 5.6, Italy and Japan 4.2, Hong Kong 6.1; but China and Peru 1.4, India and Nigeria 1.0, Pakistan 0.9, Bangladesh 0.6 hectares.

LIPU and AVEDA - EARTH MONTH 2003

In April, LIPU and Aveda, an American company that produces cosmetic products from only natural ingredients, will be working together to inform the general public about the consequences of global warming for biodiversity and bird migration.

Aveda is a company that is very much involved in environmental protection and in promoting methods of economic sustainability.

The founder of Aveda, Horst Rechelbacher, has stated that Aveda's mission is to care for the world in which we live and where it creates its products. Aveda has taken it upon itself to provide an example of leadership and responsibility in respect and protection of the environment. Aveda undertakes to use production methods that make as little impact as possible. Their products are based on essences of plants and flowers grown by biological farming methods, and they also have one of the highest proportions of recycled materials in the beauty industry.

Every April, Aveda organises the Month of the Land, when it presents initiatives, in the countries where it has a presence, to inform the general public on the importance of protecting biodiversity, in collaboration with non-profit organisations, and gathers funds for nature conservation projects.

As already mentioned, the theme this year will be global warming. LIPU and Aveda will produce a booklet to explain the causes of climate change and its consequences for the environment and animals. It will also present possible solutions, from alternative sources of energy to practical advice that we can all follow. The booklet will be distributed to LIPU members through Ali Notizie. At the same time LIPU and Aveda will collect donations for a LIPU Reserve that is important for migrating birds and where the species are particularly affected by climate change. In that Reserve, which we are in the process of choosing, we shall carry out conservation work that directly affects the birds and improve communications to visitors, for example with explanatory panels on those migrating birds at the Reserve and on the threats they face, amongst which is climate change.

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WORK IN PROGRESS

LIPU in Galicia

Tullia Costa, LIPU volunteer

We left on 5 December. Destination Galicia. There were seven of us, of different ages and from different parts of Italy. Our first stop was in Genoa to buy the equipment we would need. Then we drove to Pontevedra, 2000 kilometres and thirty two hours away. In Galicia we worked as volunteers for SEO, the Spanish bird protection association. Our job was to care for injured birds, look for dead ones and to monitor pollution on the beaches. Everything was recorded and all the data collected by the volunteers was to be used as a basis for a second report to be published by SEO in mid-January. We also helped at the recuperation centre of Santa Crùz, along with other veterinarians. Some of us also went off to help shovel oil with the local civil authorities. Faced with such a disaster every bit of help is important, both the practical work in the field and also the gathering of evidence, which is fundamental to describe the full extent and seriousness of the destruction to those who have not been able to see it for themselves.

Our grateful thanks to all the Members and Branches of Catania, Fermo, Ostia, Parma and Pedemontana Trevigiana, whose donations made the expedition possible.

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6000 SIGNATURES ON PETITION

On 25 November at a ceremony in Caserta, LIPU, along with children from a local school, handed over the petition "Free Flight" to the President of the Province. The petition requests putting an end to the slaughter of migrating birds carried out every year by illegal hunters along the coast between Naples and Caserta. The President promised to put the area under the protection of a squad of Provincial Police and to designate the area as a ZPS (Zone of Special Protection) under the EU Birds Directive. Other influential figures were also present.

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ANTI POACHING - NEW CRACKDOWN

In January, following a detailed declaration from LIPU and on the orders of Doctor Davide de Laurentis of the Director General's office of the National Forestry Commission, men of Rome's Anti poaching group, together with personnel from the Investigations group and from the Naples CITES office, carried out a blitz on the basin of the Canale d'Agnena. This area in the province of Caserta is used by hunters poaching water birds. The result was 7 hunters charged with hunting out of season and the use of electronic bird calls as well as of guns taking more than 3 shots. Two of these (of whom one turned out to be a bank director!) did not possess a gun licence and one of them was shooting with a gun from which the registration number had been erased. The Forestry guards were able to surprise the poachers by the use of powerful night glasses, acquired with funds provided for the anti-poaching activity of the Forestry Commission following the fund-raising campaign carried out by LIPU itself several years ago.

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APPEAL FOR PHOTOGRAPHS FROM LIPU IN ITALY

Dear Members, this is a special appeal to amateur photographers. Can you help us to improve our photographic archive? For an association such as ours it is really important to have available a wide variety of pictures, of good quality and various subjects. Very often, for example, magazines give space for our news items only if accompanied by suitable illustrations. Our own magazine "Ali" needs them too but it is difficult to use our funds for professional photographs.

We are therefore making a strong appeal to all LIPU members who might be good photographers. Do you have any good quality transparencies or high resolution digital photos (300 dpi) of nature (birds, animals, Italian and foreign environments), environmental destruction (pollution, building works, hunting and poaching, ecological disasters), people in natural settings (birdwatching, children and adults in natural surroundings)? Look some out and contact Andrea Mazza, who is in charge of the LIPU Press Office at andrea.mazza@lipu.it - we guarantee that the author's name will be cited each time your picture is used.

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MOLISE: DISASTER

After the earthquake of last autumn, the floods which struck the devastated area and the recent heavy snowfall, Molise has been shown to have unstable ground conditions for reasons usually due to negligence and activity which is not always compatible with the well-being of the environment. LIPU has sent to the competent authorities a series of proposals for coping with and preventing catastrophes like this one that could have been much more serious if Molise had been more densely populated. Reforestation of the slopes, protection of the natural defences of the soil and strict controls; these are some of the proposals put forward. In November, the regional council decided to extend the hunting of foxes until the 31st of March, in the province of Campobasso. The Molise branch of LIPU went into action sending out press releases and a petition to both the Provincial and Regional Councils. This has lead to questions being asked in Council by several opposition councillors.

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RESERVES AND CENTRES

SAME COASTLINE, SAME SEA

The agreement for the protection of the Cà Roman Refuge - essential for two threatened species, the Kentish Plover (fratino) and the Little Tern (fraticello) - has been renewed.

by Ugo Faralli

The names given to these birds in Italy both have the same root, but a diminutive has been added to the first, to the other a suffix of endearment. In this way the Italian language likens them, but, truth be known, they have many other things in common. They both come from the same area, arriving here in the spring after spending the winter along the coast of north Africa. They are both partial to a coastal environment - beaches and sand dunes are where they are usually found, although they are occasionally seen close to rivers and other freshwater areas.

They reproduce in the same way, at least in their method of nest-building, or rather the hollows they make in the sand, where the females brood over 3 - 4 eggs for about three weeks, the eggs coloured to provide efficient camouflage. They form colonies in the same way, from 4 or 5 pairs to immense 'frati monasteries' made up of scores of birds. More or less the same number of pairs reproduce in Europe each year (roughly 30,000, although in Italy the Little Tern is more numerous), and they have the same conservation status throughout Europe, both classed under 'SPEC 3", for species in decline.

As regards threats to their survival, sadly they face the same problems, mainly the ever-decreasing availability of suitable environments resulting from the destruction of coastlines, lagoons, beaches and sand dunes. The inevitable consequence is that our 'fratini' and 'fraticelli' are driven away and forced to make do with those last few stretches of coast as yet spared by the urbanisers. But even in these areas, especially from late spring into early summer, our 'frati' are still obliged to suffer the presence of man. This is the season when the 'fratini' and 'fraticelli' set about reproducing, and choose that shallow depression in the sand for preparing their nests. And it is also the time that coincides with the first weekends when we all decide to set off to these very same areas to find peace and quiet and roast ourselves in the sun. It only takes a towel stretched out on the sand to destroy the 'fraticello' and her eggs; whereas that joyful race to the sea for a refreshing swim may spell the demise of mum 'fratino' and her young.

As usual, it's man against nature, nature against man. And as always, it's we LIPU folk who have to come up with solutions, or at least compromises. We've succeeded in the past and now we're going to try again, this time in a crucial area.

Along the southern edge of the Venice Lagoon, facing Chioggia, there is a small triangle of sand dunes called Cà Roman. Reacting to our suggestions, the local authorities, headed by the Commune (Borough Council) and the Venice Provincial Authority, have created a sanctuary comprising 41 hectares. Up until a few years ago, and thanks to the work of LIPU, the area was still able to boast 100 pairs of Kentish Plovers and Little Terns. The beach was divided into two sectors, one for the birds, the other for tourists. This year we're returning. Our aim, with the co-operation of the local environmental authority of the Venice Commune, is to ensure that as many as possible of these wonderful birds are allowed to return and coexist safely with the tourists, As happens in other reserves, we shall be electing an area supervisor, making a three-year management plan and providing information for the public. We shall be monitoring bird life and checking biodiversity as well as making suggestions for future developments in which man and nature can coexist. Just as we always do.

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PROTECTION OF MIGRATING RAPTORS AT THE STRAITS OF MESSINA

25 April to 22 May

The camp operates along the Calabrian coast at the Straits of Messina, between Reggio Calabria and Bagnara Calabria. The project has been running for many years, organised with G.U.F.O. (University of Viterbo Bird Group). The activities consist of monitoring migrating birds and reporting illegal shooting to the police and Forest Rangers. To improve our knowledge of the routes and dynamics of the migration we shall be using survey methods based on meteorological data transmitted by Meteosat on the Internet. Participation at the camp is free, but you must be a member of LIPU. For information contact: Rino Esposito LIPU Tel. 0521 27.30.43 - fax 0521 27.34.19.

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LIPU ASSEMBLY

The 26th LIPU National Assembly will have two special items on the agenda: the election of Officers for 2003 - 2006 and two days of activities dedicated to voluntary work and activists.

The Council consists of 20 members. It decides the Association's programme and the measures required to carry it out, and approves the budget and final accounts. From its members are elected the President, two Vice-presidents and membership of the General Executive, consisting of the President, Vice-presidents and five elected members. The Council also appoints the Director General.

Members of LIPU are entitled to vote (the voting form is attached to the Italian version of Ali Notizie) if they are over 18 years old, their membership subscription is up to date, and they have been members for at least a year at 9 March 2003. Postal votes must reach National Headquarters before 31 May 2003.

The annual meeting will consist of the Members' Assembly on the afternoon of Saturday 31 May and the Delegates' and Activists' Assembly on Sunday 1 June and Monday 2 June. The Members will receive reports from the President, the Council and the General Management, as well as approving the financial accounts.

There will be two days of discussions on a variety of topics, particularly on the nature conservation strategies being pursued by LIPU. As well as looking at the general aims of the Association there will be opportunities to examine issues such as voluntary work, IBA projects, agriculture, and hunting.

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

Translation of this issue is by Alan Morgan, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley - thank you all.

Thanks also to the RSPB for permission to reporduce the line drawings in this issue.

NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

In the previous pages we've read of some of the vital and interesting work being carried out in Italy. I'll be very happy to send voting forms if required as described in the section about the Annual Assembly. I'll also be happy to help if anyone has photographs for Andrea Mazza - I can scan slides or prints if you wish and send them by email, returning the originals to you.

E-mail bulletins

LIPU has a private discussion forum on the web, and a wide range of topics is discussed on that site which never reaches the pages of Ali Notizie. Brian Horkley is happy to translate the more interesting items and we are thinking of sending this by email to all members who are interested and can receive this medium.

This will not replace the newsletters but will, we hope, keep members in touch with some extra news events in an informal and timely way. If you would like to receive these bulletins please send me a brief email at mail@lipu-uk.org.

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Camps and holidays in Italy

I have a list, which like the voting forms would be impractical to send with this mailing, of various camps and holidays. These range from helping in a recovery centre for a week to a ten day holiday staying in comfortable farm houses. Please contact me if you would like more details.

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I find it almost unbelievable that the proposed bridge across the Straits of Messina might go ahead without its environmental impact being properly assessed. If built, its impact on the migrating birds could be profound, it might even encourage the hunters to patrol it for their own evil purposes.

Brian Horkley, our translator in chief has many years experience of the camps on the Straits and here he writes a piece about the importance of these camps.

BIRD PROTECTION IN SOUTHERN ITALY

by Brian Horkley

It is a perfect day in early May. A light north-easterly breeze ruffles the sparkling surface of the sea at the Strait of Messina, here at its narrowest between Sicily and Calabria. It is late morning and already, over in Sicily, the slopes, ridges and mountains are indistinct in the haze created by the rising heat. From a ridge on the Calabrian side the view stretches from the low spit of land on the right, the most north-easterly point in Sicily, far away to the left, south-westwards, where the snowy summit of Etna can still just be discerned before it, too, will eventually be effaced by the haze.

Here they come! Honey Buzzards are flapping their way across the open water, gradually losing the height they had gained over the far shore. The Strait is only a few kilometres wide here and the birds have no problem in crossing. On reaching the Calabrian shore, hundreds of feet below, they begin circling, using thermals to spiral upwards so as to continue their journey northwards, up the valleys and over the ridges of the Italian peninsula. It is impossible to count them as they circle but when the lead bird strikes out from the top of the spiral, and is followed by all the others when they reach the same height, it is a simple matter to get an accurate number, 83 birds in this one group. Their track and height are dictated by the strength and direction of the wind and today they are flying in low and directly towards us, a truly magnificent sight.

Suddenly, the quiet of a lovely spring day is destroyed by the sound of dozens of rapid firing shotguns. Hunters have been lying in wait for just this moment, hidden behind carefully sited concrete bunkers, and atop high wooden shooting towers. Honey Buzzards tumble from the sky, some dead before they crash to the ground, others lie twitching, trying desperately to rise again. Others are hit but manage to keep going for a while until they finally succumb, or are hit again by the remorseless gunfire. The hunters excitedly claim their kills, their status within their local community enhanced by a high number. Some have annual scores in the hundreds, but anyone with none to his credit is mocked during the end of season festivities.

Fortunately, slaughter on such a scale is in the past. That description could well have been written up to the late '80's. Migration of Honey Buzzards, as well as other birds of prey and storks, continues, as it probably has done for millennia, affected only by global climate changes since the ice ages and the availability of food and nest sites in central and northern Europe. The central Mediterranean flyway, linking Africa with central Europe, is one of the three routes used by migrants between their overwintering areas in Africa and their summer breeding areas in the north. It is less than a hundred miles from Cap Bon in Tunisia to the western extremity of Sicily. Once there the birds fly along the northern coast of Sicily due eastwards towards the Strait of Messina, where they cross to the mainland, up to 30,000 raptors each spring.

Shooting Honey Buzzards was well established in the 19th and much of the 20th centuries, some claiming that the activities, myths, superstitions and ceremonies associated with it were vital to village communities in many parts of Sicily and Calabria. It is only relatively recently that laws were passed protecting migrating birds. Even then, little was done to stop the shooting, in fact some of the policemen charged with upholding the law were hunters and could not have brought themselves to arrest their friends and members of their local community over such a matter.

It was only in the mid-80s that a few courageous local people stood up to confront the hunters. In spite of extreme provocation, threats and real danger to themselves and their property they gradually had an effect. The media took up the story within Italy and in other part of Europe. You may well remember the BBC film in the early '90's, "Anna and the Honey Buzzards", documenting the efforts of Anna Giordano to stop the annual slaughter. There were cases of serious assault, car burning, a local activist had his home bombed, and shooting. A member of the National Forest Rangers was shot and seriously wounded. Even in the mid '90's our car was fired at, pellets rattling on the bodywork, and one of my companions had clothing pierced to the skin. By this time an annual camp of international volunteers had become well established, largely from Italy, Germany and Britain. Gradually the violence diminished but there was still much abuse, provocation and threat. It was still dangerous to become separated from companions and Italian minders, and everyone had to be ready to leap into the cars at a moment's notice if the situation was considered to be getting out of hand. Although it was sometimes intimidating to be surrounded by abusive and sneering hunters, intent on provoking some reaction, all volunteers were made aware of the necessity never to get into an argument and certainly never to take direct action of any kind. Our role was, and still is, to monitor the migration and whenever possible, to locate illegal activity and report it to the authorities for them to take action.

For several years now a detachment of the National Forest Rangers has been deployed to Calabria each spring. Its members are from other parts of Italy and have no personal involvement in local communities. Up to sixty personnel, Landrovers and two helicopters have been present for several weeks during the migration. In addition, local police forces have increasingly accepted their responsibility for taking some action against illegal shooting. Prison for violent offenders, fines and loss of their licences to shoot legally, and confiscation of guns, have also had a deterrent effect.

The difficulties, disappointments, frustrations and arguments encountered over the years must be acknowledged. The local Sicilian and Calabrian activists were, and still are, passionate people - they could not have started their action unless they were. Unlike the international volunteers, they live permanently in the area, are well known and, in the early years, were marked and targeted. They have not even always agreed between themselves on the best ways forward and there have been two separate camps for several years. The presence of local activists is vital to making any progress in Calabria and Sicily, but they need the support of the political system, EU law, Italian law, national funds, and national and international environmental organisations. Here again the story has been one of stepping forward but slipping back. One Italian government will allocate funds to ensure the deployment of the Forest Rangers for the migration season, the next will appease the hunters by reneging on the commitment. Similar examples elsewhere in Italy are all too common, as your reading of recent issues of Ali Notizie will confirm.

Financial support for the camps has been hard to find. LIPU Italy has been involved at various times, consistently supported by LIPU-UK, as well as WWF and Legambiente. FMF (Fondazione Mediterranea Falchi) is based in Reggio Calabria and has been consistently and generously supported by a private sponsor for the last few years. Invaluable financial and practical support has also come every year from NABU (Germany). This year, the camp in Sicily was largely funded by FMF. As it had been abandoned by the previous main sponsors, FMF agreed to underwrite the bulk of the expenditure. In the end, the organisers managed to scrape together contributions from other sources, and these will offset the amount FMF needs to commit. WWF Sicily and NABU (Germany) have both made substantial contributions, LIPU Sicily has funded two mobile phones, the contracts and bills for use, and provided petrol coupons. The contributions from all these sources amount to about £7300, which is probably half (or perhaps a third) of the money needed to run the camp. This is just an example of the organisational problems that must be solved to make sure that the illegal killing of birds in the area is kept under control, and that accurate data is collected and analysed.

In spite of all those problems the current situation in Sicily and Calabria has improved out of all recognition from what it was a few years ago. There is still some illegal shooting, by a few die-hards, in isolated parts of the countryside and from the flat roofs of houses in Reggio Calabria. When weather conditions force birds to fly in low, shots can be heard and some can be seen to fall. The shots are now counted in dozens, however, rather than the hundreds previously logged in a day. On a particularly black day, 31 May 1994, over a thousand shots were counted and some 300 birds fell. The permanent bunkers have not been used for many years and they are now falling into ruin. There are fewer registered shotgun licence holders than formerly, an indication that even legal hunting is not so popular now.

Many members of the general public are much more aware now about wildlife and the environment. There is a steady stream of calls from people reporting dead, exhausted, injured and wounded birds, and many of them are treated and returned to the wild. Honey Buzzards, Little Bitterns, eagles, storks, harriers and kites are some of the species found shot. Children are being encouraged to undertake projects in school and enter competitions. Volunteers at their monitoring sites are no longer surrounded by threatening hunters, in fact some local people engage in friendly conversation. Places, which formerly were no-go areas to volunteers, are now perfectly safe. A particularly significant step forward has been the recent establishment of a permanent base by the Reggio based Fondazione Mediterranea Falchi. It is a nineteenth century military fort, overlooking the Strait and Sicily, in a perfect position for observation when migrating birds choose to cross at that point. It is also a good centre from which to send out mobile patrols. The Foundation has been able to lease the site and has already spent a considerable amount from its private sponsor in renovating the main house. It can be used for volunteers at migration time as well as for research and environmental projects during the rest of the year. It has already been used for May Day Festivals, when local families have come to celebrate the migration and find out more about birds and the environment. Such an investment would have been unthinkable until now. A couple of years ago the approach road was littered with specially prepared nail devices and on leaving in the twilight our cars suffered seven punctured tyres.

After a long, often frustrating, and sometimes extremely difficult period, what of the future in Sicily and Calabria?

The situation, though much improved, is not solved. There is still some shooting by a hard core of a few determined people. Without observations by volunteers and the involvement of police authorities these people could become more active again over a wider area and currently inactive fringe members might return to their former habits. It is known that if monitoring is relaxed in Sicily, some Calabrian hunters just take the ferry and take advantage of the opportunity. Some Italian hunters are known to go to extraordinary lengths to kill large numbers of many species and there have been many reports of their activities in Eastern European countries. However, the long-term expectation is that youngsters are not turning to hunting, children are become more environmentally aware and more people are ready to enjoy the migration spectacle without killing.

The attitudes of the present government in Italy must be condemned. Reports in recent issues of Ali Notizie indicate that the pro-hunting lobby in Italy has won concessions and changes in the law that put Natural Parks, habitats and wildlife seriously at risk. The previous government had allocated funds to ensure that the National Forest Rangers could deploy its patrols for some years. If the present government denies that funding the whole situation in Calabria will worsen at the next migration period. This is a particularly sensitive chapter in the story of bird protection in southern Italy. The bleakest period is behind us. Some of the volunteers who were attracted by the obvious challenges in the early days may have moved on to other fields. Some met at the camps, married and now have families! They have other commitments. The story is no longer as newsworthy as it once was, Italian television and the BBC would not find enough of a certain kind of bad news to interest their viewers. Italian wildlife and environmental organisations do not have the member base and available funds we have come to accept in Britain and Germany. Here, the advice and support of BirdLife International Partners and lobbying at EU level is vital. Political lobbying within Italy is imperative too, and environmental organisations should be supported in their efforts to affect outcomes at National, Regional and local levels.

By supporting LIPU-UK you are already a link in the chain that can be strong enough to make a difference.

Annual Appeal 2003

I am delighted to be able to tell you that this year's appeal has already proved more successful than that of last year and we are on course to funding all the agreed projects from the appeal, thank you all.

However, "we never close" and if you should still wish to make a contribution it will be gratefully received, and devoted to the cause we all believe in.

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East Anglian Garden and Flower Show, Bourn Airfield, Cambridge

LIPU-UK will have a stand at the above fair from 27 - 29 June this year and we'd be very pleased if any members visiting the show would drop in and see us in the Conservation Marquee. This event will be open from 10 am to 5 pm every day and entrance is £6 in advance, concessions £5, children enter for no charge.

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Help the Iberian Lynx

Member, Yvonne Elvin of Harrogate, has asked to me to mention the appeal to save the Lynx in Spain and Portugal where it is in danger of extinction. Full details of the appeal can be obtained from Fauna & Flora International, tel: 01223 571000 or on the web:

www.fauna-flora.org.

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Sponsored Birdwatch

Members raise funds in many different ways, but a sponsored event is always popular and likely to gain a good level of support.

Simon Henderson of Cambridgeshire, with three friends, chose this way to help LIPU last year, his account of a long day follows.

"We carried out a sponsored birdwatch in Spring 2002 in order to raise some money for LIPU and see how many species we were able to identify in the course of a day within the county of Cambridgeshire. Here are the edited highlights of a memorable day!

I rose at 3.15 am after only achieving about 3 hours of restless sleep due to the excitement (or worry) of what lay ahead. After meeting up with the other members of our intrepid/foolhardy team (John Lindsell, Jeremy Holding and my brother, Robin) we arrived at a local wood at 4.30 am in order to locate a dead certainty, nuthatch, which was seen building a nest two weeks earlier. After waiting in the freezing cold for 20 minutes for it to put in an appearance, we realised that the nesting attempt had been abandoned – not an auspicious start to the day. We hoped our luck would change…

We visited two more sites and our tally increased to 69. At 9 am we arrived at the Nene washes during a short shower. In order to do the site justice we would have to indulge in a four mile walk and the team were reluctant to set off, especially now that a strong westerly wind was blowing. I finally coerced them into braving the elements with tales of the wonderful birds that I'd seen there the day before. The pressure was now on me – if this turned out to be a disaster I might find myself walking home! I need not have worried, however, because just over 2 hours later we returned to the car, not only having seen garganey, wheatear and 10 species of waders, including a migrant bar tailed godwit, but having been treated to a breathtaking wetland spectacle of displaying black tailed godwit, drumming snipe, intensely bright yellow wagtails and a plethora of singing skylark and corn bunting. A truly magical experience. By noon, we had amassed a total of 87 species and we thought we could cruise the rest of the day – we reached 90 just after 1 pm so we had over 8 hours to see another 10species in order to reach our target of 100 birds. Easy.

Unfortunately, we reckoned without the weather (well that was our excuse anyway). The wind got stronger and a series of squally showers made birding even more difficult. Despite collecting some unusual migrants (arctic tern and dotterel), we had only managed to add another 8 species during visits to 4 more sites by 7.30 pm. This was going to be close. We arrived at our final site confident of getting the two species we needed. At dusk, the first woodcocks started roding over our heads, taking us to 99 and then, as the light faded, the distant reeling of a grasshopper warbler gave us our 100th bird. Mission accomplished. There was much shaking hands and clapping of backs and we gave up and decamped to a local pub to finish the celebrations. That was the worst mistake of the day.

Someone had the bright idea of checking our list and we spent some time trying to make it add up. Eventually we realised that we had counted two birds twice (black-headed gull and starling) so our final tally was actually 98! I would have blamed our recorder but that was me so I kept quiet. No matter how many more drinks we had, we couldn't make it add up to 100.

Still, as I clambered into bed at 11.30 pm, I reflected on a memorable days birdwatching and what made it even better was the fact that John Lindsell and I had raised almost £100 for LIPU."

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AISPA

The Anglo Italian Society for the Protection of Animals has long been a valued friend and supporter of LIPU both in Italy and its UK section. I am often asked how this friendship started and here is a very brief history of the early days of LIPU.

"In 1965, the same people who were bent on killing birds - the hunters, were asked to advise the Italian government on bird protection. To use an old Italian expression, it was like putting mice in charge of the cheese! To counter this, Professor Giorgio Punzo of Naples founded LENACDU, the League Against the Destruction of Birds. There were less than 300 members. Among them was Robin Chanter, a young Englishman, who had lived in Italy for many years. He had become passionately interested in birds when he observed the annual massacre by hunters in Capri. Professor Punzo asked Robin to become Secretary of the newly formed League. He found the small Society with no organisation, no funds and very few members.

Mr Chanter managed to persuade the British Institute in Florence to give them office space. He appealed to AISPA for funds to start recruiting members. It was very difficult in those days. However, he persevered in a very hostile climate. Like Leonard Hawksley, AISPA's founder, before him, his life was threatened by the hunters.

Slowly the League began to grow. AISPA provided extra funds for publicity campaigns, magazines and conferences. The media began to take notice and, at last public awareness of the wholesale slaughter of birds began to develop.

By 1974, the continued growth and expanding activities of the League made it apparent that the British Institute could no longer house it. At the same time, it was evident that a full-time Director was needed. Robin Chanter could not leave his own work so Dr Francesco Mezzatesta took over as Secretary General and the Headquarters were moved to Parma. It was agreed that a more positive name should be adopted and LENACDU became LIPU, the Italian League for the Protection of Birds."

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