Ali Notizie - The English Digest - September 2003

SEPTEMBER 2003 - from the Editor

I am often tempted to say that conservation and politics are separate things and not think of them together, but in this real, material, commercial, greedy world that is only rarely possible.

I'm not talking here of party politics, I'm talking of something much worse than that - Europe and the Common Agricultural Policy, the need for whose radical overhaul is accepted by all those who don't have vested interests. LIPU Agriculture Officer, Patrizia Rossi writes in this issue, in words more diplomatic than mine, of the watering down of the proposed changes so the changes, which might take effect by 2007, will do little to help the environment - too little and too late.

It is now clear to most people that the best, if not the only way, to help birds and other wildlife is to preserve the habitat they need, yet, here, again, the politicians of Europe fudge the critical issue. Will they ever realise that the future of the planet is more important than votes?

On a happier note, we enjoyed a holiday in the Po delta at the beginning of September and stopped in Parma to discuss LIPU's work and progress with the team in their offices at headquarters and there was good news as well as bad and that is always welcome. Despite the problems caused by the present government there are signs of improvement in many areas of LIPU's work but it is often very frustrating when one sees the bureaucratic labyrinths which seem to be there only to impede progress.

LIPU also has a new President, Danilo Mainardi has agreed to stay on as Honorary President while Giuliano Tallone takes over the position as the leader of LIPU. Giuliano sent me a letter after his appointment saying how much he values the support of the British branch and wishing us all well, in part he says:

"I'm very happy about that and I'm very honoured for this election, and I hope to do all is needed to lead LIPU in the direction of his goals for nature and bird protection.

I would express my intention to work closely with LIPU-UK, that I follow from the start because at that time I was a LIPU staff member, some years ago.

I don't know if you remember me, after leaving LIPU staff for a career in park management (I'm former director of Val Grande National Park and at the moment director of Regional Park Agency in Rome) I become LIPU Council member in 1995 and Executive Committee member in 1999.

Thank you, David, for your concern and involvement for birds in Italy and for the fundraising activities in UK for LIPU projects, and thank you to all LIPU-UK members."

I am sure I speak for all when I wish Giuliano the best of good fortune in his position at the head of LIPU in the years ahead.

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WORDS FROM THE PRESIDENT(S)

Working together for LIPU

In its September issue of Ali, LIPU has published a letter from Danilo Mainardi, recently created Honorary President of LIPU. In this letter Danilo Mainardi expresses his thanks for the honour bestowed on him and remarks that its significance lies in the fact that LIPU knows how to share responsibilities and tasks in the struggles that it faces. He for one will continue to work even harder in the future.

He also welcomes the new President, Giuliano Tallone, pointing to his long and successful contribution to the work of LIPU and wishing him well in his role of bringing together all the joint efforts of those who work for the association.

His letter is followed by one from the new President himself, Giuliano Tallone. In this, Giuliano Tallone mentions the twenty years that he has worked for LIPU and acknowledges the honour he has received by being appointed President. He hopes that he will be able to rise to the challenge set by his predecessors, Danilo Mainardi (whom he thanks for kind words of welcome) and Mario Pastore.

As someone who has experienced all the various aspects of the work of LIPU, he pays homage to the enthusiasm, skill and experience of the team at the head of LIPU, including the 2 vice-presidents and the members of council. He looks forward to working with these people and with all the members of LIPU to make it a bigger and more effective organisation than ever in its work for conservation and for birds.

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KENTISH PLOVER AND LITTLE TERN

by Danilo Mainardi

The Commune of Venice has decided to entrust the running of two reserves to LIPU and WWF. They are Ca' Roman and Alberoni and are important for breeding Kentish Plovers and Little Terns.

They both prefer nesting sites on open beaches where shallow scrapes serve as nests. However, they have evolved different strategies to avoid their natural predators. Kentish Plovers act on their own, often simulating a broken wing to draw the predator away from their nest. The distraction method is based on a conflict of motivations. The bird, when a fox, for example, is close to the nest, is subject to two conflicting impulses: to fly away and also to defend its young. Its first impulse is to spread its wings for flight, but then the second clicks in and makes it fall back to the ground. The series of false departures only comes to an end when the predator is well away from the nest.

The terns have a different strategy. They attack the predator together, diving down on it to drive it away. Kentish Plovers have also evolved to prefer nesting close to tern colonies and thus take advantage of the extra protection afforded by the terns' collective defensive behaviour. However, these tactics that have evolved in nature are no defence against threats from man: crowded beaches and also excavators that level swathes of beach in a moment. Therefore it is vital that we protect the few remaining areas, not only for these two species but for biodiversity as a whole.

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THE LIPU HUNTING CAMPAIGN

Hands off the Chaffinch

In Venice, a convention on the protection of wildlife in the face of the continuing attempt to end the controls on hunting

by Danilo Selvaggi

The protection of wildlife is underpinned by Juridical, scientific and European Law: such has been the theme of the convention organised by LIPU, WWF and Legambiente together with the support of numerous other associations. Those attending were ornithologists, biologists and representatives of Italian and international environmental movements (among whose spokespeople also figured Marco Lambertini, network Director of Birdlife International) together with people from the world of agriculture and hunting (Coldiretti and Arcicacchia). They discussed and looked at the facts of the anything but flourishing situation in which birds and animals in general find themselves in our country today. The disappearance of habitats, the various forms of human pressure and the ever more insane activities of the hunting lobby are having a serious influence on species of wildlife with the inevitable result that many of them are now entering a stage of serious threat. To take an example; of all the birds recovered in LIPU's rescue centres at least 95% belong to protected or strictly protected species (birds of prey, storks, herons etc), a clear demonstration of the very high frequency, even now, of the illegal hunting of wild bird populations. What is the solution to this? Apart from anything else the answer lies in careful attention to the laws and to their enforcement and, above all, through the new regulations which are increasing and improving the status of the protection of wildlife. As we know only too well, recent political trends seem to be going in the opposite direction, beginning with the notion of modifying, if not completely reversing, the law 157/92 on the protection of wildlife and the control of hunting activity.

In a climate of growing institutional and political chaos (which LIPU and the cartel of environmental associations have found necessary to denounce), the passage through parliament of the nine-proposal modification to law 157 continues though amidst discussions, arguments and growing fears which are beginning to make themselves heard. The Agriculture Commission of Parliament that is at this moment evaluating the proposals, has sat through a remarkable number of hearings (from farming and hunting associations, local authorities, the National Forestry Commission, the INFS not to mention the ministers La Loggia and Alemanno). It has emerged from the greater part of these that law no.157 should be applied more effectively rather than distorting it in the interest of an almost total deregulation of hunting.

More recently moreover, just to complicate the scene, it seems that there is (despite the Government having denied it many times over) a white paper from the Ministry of Agriculture which would completely change the present law. To cite but one aspect, it would allow hunting to take place in the breeding season.

The atmosphere, in a word, is not of the calmest. All the more so in that the environmental and animal associations (ever more numerous and not just the best known) appear now to be on a war footing. The reason is very simple: how is it possible, at this crucial time for nature and our ecosystems, to be planning measures which will lengthen the list of game animals, allow hunting in the national parks, and during the breeding and migration seasons or which will even decriminalise all trapping, and worse still?

The battle promises to be long and difficult, at least until the good sense and even-handedness of those who decide our environmental politics finally return to the land of the living.

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AGRICULTURE

The future for the environment: medium term reform of the CAP, another opportunity missed

by Patrizia Rossi

European Ministers of Agriculture have now approved medium term reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Unfortunately the long awaited turns in favour of the environment have not materialised. The status quo has been maintained and an important chance has been lost to stop the decline of many species of birds throughout Europe. From a purely financial point of view the outcome for Italy is positive and the country is certainly not penalised compared with other countries. But what of the environment? Any positive of negative effects on it will depend on how each individual State (or Region) decides to implement the reforms.

At present we only have a general outline of the reforms, no details, but there are already some worrying indications. The concept of decoupling subsidies from production has been accepted but member States retain the right to maintain links with production up to 25% (40% for hard wheat) of the subsidies. The new system is planned to begin in 2005, but many think it will be 2007 before it does so. The link between subsidies and production is the major influence from the CAP that is causing environmental damage.

Financial resources provided for rural development will increase by less than was proposed in July 2002, but more than was declared in October 2002. In the end, the increase will be less than half of what was proposed initially. Still far too little.

Something new that has been proposed is that farmers who want to apply for subsidies have first to abide by the rules of the Commission, and then member States. They will have to maintain their land in good agricultural and (this is new) environmental condition. Perhaps they mean that the land should be managed in such a way that is not damaging to the environment. We will fight for just that.

Still on the agenda of the European Commission are reforms of the olive oil, tobacco and cotton sectors, which will be presented in the autumn. The olive oil sector is fundamental to the protection of nature and landscape in central and southern Italy. We will support reforms that will lead to olive growing of good quality, that respect biodiversity and contribute to a development of marginal areas in the south, sustainable from the environmental and social point of view.

and more on agriculture...

ACTION FOR NATURE

At every change of European Presidency, BirdLife International prepares a document entitled "Greening Europe". It describes the main features that a proper environmental policy ought to promote in Europe. This has now been done for the Italian presidential term. It includes arguments concerning agriculture, Nature 2000 Network and biodiversity, structural funding, environmental responsibility, the trans-European transport network, the next European Constitution and the special case of the Spanish Water Resources Plan.

The decisive challenge for nature conservation is in agriculture. The fate of many habitats and animal species depends upon "ecological" farming practices. Bad agriculture includes a reliance on chemicals and GM crops, but it also encompasses intensive farming, monoculture, and the disappearance of small habitats, such as hedgerows and ponds. Bad agriculture also means low quality products, uninteresting landscapes, poor living conditions for farm animals and loss of biodiversity.

Good agriculture, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. But how are we to promote good practices? Certainly with the commitment of individual farmers, but especially with wide-ranging policies that make ecological agriculture really possible. In a key period for the reform of the CAP, LIPU and BirdLife International are asking for choices to be made that will lead to proper sustainability in European agriculture.

WIND POWER - dream or reality?

by Andrea Mazza of LIPU and Ariel Brunner of Nature network 2000 LIPU.

The debate about renewable energy, especially wind-power, is going on in Italy too. Climate change is one side of the argument but there are also growing concerns about the impact of wind-power technology itself. Economically speaking it is now the most competitive of renewable energy options and is often proposed as a valid solution for the reduction in the use of fossil fuels, which are responsible for carbon dioxide emissions.

According to the Kyoto protocol, Italy should have reduced its CO² emissions by 6.5%, compared to 1990 levels. However, they have in fact increased by 6%. What should be done to tackle this problem?

Many naturalists have expressed their concern about the impact of wind power generation on the environment and landscape, when thousands of huge turbines are often located in areas of high aesthetic and environmental value. But what are these impacts? Aesthetic, primarily. Then the destruction and fragmentation of habitats, bird mortality through collisions and also the opening up of new roads, which can be damaging to delicate environmental balances.

Ali sought to know and compare the opinions of the major environmental organisations and wind power operators in Italy. The forum included LIPU, CNP (National Landscape Committee), WWF Italia, Legambiente (an environmental organisation), Enel (electricity generating company), Aper (Association of Renewable Energy Producers), IVPC (Italian Windpower Corporation).

What is the contribution that wind-power will make towards Italy's energy requirements?

WWF: By 2010 a realistic figure is 3 megawatts.

Enel: By 2005 wind generation will amount to 1% of the total produced from fossil fuels.

Legambiente: Wind-power ought to play an important in the future balance of electricity generation. We think that it should be possible to increase to 2/3 MW. There must also be a complete strategy of energy saving in the public and industrial sectors, improvements in existing production methods and a policy of sustainable transport.

IVPC: Wind-power produced on an industrial scale will not, on its own, meet the Kyoto objectives. As well as private production there should also be a mix with other renewable sources, such as thermal and solar.

CNP: In our view wind-power may not be able to make a significant contribution to energy requirements and reduction of greenhouse gasses. Even if 5 MW were to be obtained, according to government forecasts, it would only satisfy 1.1% of the total energy needs in Italy. We think that we must rather concentrate on solar energy and energy saving schemes.

APER: Currently wind-power generation is able to meet the needs of half a million families. If we can reach the 2010 objectives it would avoid 6/7 million tons of CO² being emitted into the atmosphere.

LIPU: On current data it is evident that the contribution to a reduction in the greenhouse effect is very low. We think that the cost to the environment may be greater than the benefits of reduction in greenhouse gasses. Energy policies must aim at reduction of consumption by consumers and by energy efficiency. There must be an evaluation of cost benefits of other renewable sources such as solar energy.

What is the impact of wind power generation on habitats and on animals, especially birds?

WWF: A WWF report published in June said that bird strikes on wind generators in the USA are very low (0.01-0.02%) compared with the total accidents suffered by birds. Rather than just looking at raw numerical data, it would be more informative to take into account the species of birds that might be affected in a given area, especially those that are rare and threatened.

Enel: Everything must be done to reduce the impact on the landscape. The impact on birds is much less than that of roads. Studies in the USA and Spain have not revealed significant problems, except from old very large structures which are no longer being built.

Legambiente: The impact on the landscape is very worrying. We have examples of serious degradation, such as between Puglia and Basilicata.

IVPC: Our monitoring shows that migrating birds have not been striking our equipment, nor have they abandoned those areas.

CNP: Wind turbines have a serious effect on the landscape, and on the hydrological balance in the area and the stability of the land itself. In Spain, Navarra, wind turbines have caused high bird mortality, while in parts of Italy a population of Red Kites has disappeared. Migrating birds, flying at night, do not see the turbines.

LIPU: Wind turbines cause destruction and fragmentation of habitats. Our research shows that their impact varies according to their location. In some places it is nil; in others it is very serious, such as in Spain and the USA, where unsound choices have caused the deaths of large numbers of birds.

How should the development of wind power in Italy be planned? Which areas should be protected?

WWF: Regions should publish plans of where turbines are to be constructed. The plans should then be analysed by environmentalists and landscape specialists. In general, they should not be constructed in areas of recognised natural value, such as parks, zones of special protection and sites of community importance.

IVPC: We are convinced that it is definitely preferable to indicate those sites where turbines should not be built rather than list those where it would be possible.

APER: Planning should indicate areas of high naturalistic value where construction should be avoided, but leave the market to decide where to install turbines elsewhere. Currently not all regions, contrary to forecasts, have adopted environmental energy plans. Toscana is the only one to have presented guidelines for the reduction of environmental damage caused by the installation of wind turbines.

LIPU: We are asking for a moratorium on the construction of new installations until a proper national and regional plan has been formulated. Furthermore, we ask that they be built only in areas where other development has already taken place and where there are no species of threatened birds. We also ask that construction be forbidden in parks, reserves and all special areas.

SIX MONTHS IN EUROPE

The Italian tenure of the European Union Presidency: today the future of the environment is in the balance.

by Danilo Selvaggi

The Italian six-month term of office in the presidency of the European Union comes at a particularly sensitive time for Italian and European Nature. The task, serious as it is from a general political point of view, is no less important in environmental eyes and will oblige our Government to face up to burning issues which will require serious and satisfactory responses. Clearly, the signs are not promising: Italy arrives with a baggage of choices which are not a little worrying in respect of the environmental policy we are likely to export to the rest of Europe.

There is no chance of that if, when Italy takes its seat in Brussels, the grouping of Italian environmental associations (13 including LIPU) have presented a dossier with the long and detailed list of the unfortunate environmental choices already taken or in the process of being made in our country in recent times. One can go from the politics of waste to the risk of a new avalanche of concrete (the so-called "great works"), from the slicing up of the national parks to the proposals for "wild hunting", from the privatisation of water to the sale of the national heritage (both environmental and artistic) and so on. All in all a picture which leaves you absolutely flabbergasted. In fact it should be borne in mind that, in addition to the simple (so to speak) risk that such models might be extended to the entire European Union, in the course of the next six-month term, among the other main points on the agenda is that of the so-called "enlargement". That is to say, the opening up of the EU to the ten new nations which will be coming in to join. These are nations which, though rich in wildlife, do not yet dispose of a solid grounding in environmental experience. There is then the risk that the development models promoted in "old" Europe might be an even graver threat to the environment, to the countryside, to the natural resources and to wildlife than elsewhere.

It is moreover to be considered that although brief, as the second semester of the year always is (it is in fact a matter of some four months since mid-summer actually starts in September), this term of office will come across a series of situations of particular relevance to environmental politics. The matter of GM crops, the relationship with the USA especially with respect to Kyoto, the relations with poor countries, the meeting of the WTO in Cancun (Mexico), the reform of the CAP, the energy question and more besides: these are matters on which will depend, we say this with no exaggeration, a large part of our future.

BIRDWATCHING

As common as a sparrow

by Guido Premuda

As we think sparrows are so common and lacking in interest we do not pay them very much attention. House Sparrows seen in other parts of Europe and in the USA have grey crowns, unlike the ones in the rest of Italy. There are different species, sub-species and hybrids. The grey-crowned variety, Passer domesticus, is localised on the Italian mainland to a few alpine valleys.

Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) is in Sardinia. It is much less linked to human habitation then the House Sparrow. Passer italiae is our common sparrow. Its taxonomy is not clear-cut, currently being regarded as a "stable hybrid", and more research is still needed to settle the argument. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) is the "country" sparrow. It is gregarious and colonial, often uses nest-boxes and is often the main species in an area.

In typical Mediterranean habitats, such as at the coast and in dry areas, for example in Puglia and in Sicily, we come across the rare Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia). It is found in rocky habitats with a hot, dry climate.

Why are numbers falling?

Although still widespread, sparrow numbers are falling. This is happening not only in the country but also in urban areas. There are various factors at work: the disappearance of traditional agriculture and small herds of farm animals, the excessive use of fungicides and insecticides, the redesigning of traditional houses and killing in the name of presumed damage to agricultural crops.

TEN YEARS IN CASACALENDA.

Set up 10 years ago, this is the first Nature Reserve in Molise

by Carlo Meo

Once through the gate with its 'Welcome' sign, we follow the gently rising path into the woods.

Notice boards and signs indicate the itinerary, and all the while we are surrounded by the chirping of Great Tits and Jays, the Golden Oriole and Nightingales. This is Casacalenda in Molise, where exactly ten years ago LIPU, with the support of the local Council, set up the first non - governmental protected area. The event was inaugurated by Giovanni Tozzi, who is still the local mayor, and also by our late and much-missed President, Mario Pastore.

There is no shortage of similar woods in this part of Molise, but in Casacalenda permission was granted for the coppicing of certain trees that were growing in large numbers. In this way, the Turkey oak resumed its former glory and the Bosco Casale has now become a kind of flagship for those trying to protect the environment against others who prefer to exploit it for economic gain.

A paradise for butterflies

As we ascend and reach 700 metres, we are struck by the abundance of plants and flowers growing all around us. The reason for such profusion is that the managers of the Reserve have had the foresight to carry out a periodic programme of mowing in clearings and next to pathways. This has led to the re-growth of herbaceous flowers that the butterflies find extremely attractive. LIPU workers have identified more than 60 species of butterfly here, not an unreasonable number if you consider how unvaried the habitat is.

The Reserve has been working hard over the past few years to make sure that visitors are stimulated into an appreciation of things natural. Monthly events have been organised, educational programmes and guided tours have become regular features. These activities have involved more than 15,000 people, tourists, school children, families, nature lovers.

A year after its inauguration the Reserve was recognised as a 'Protected Wilderness Area' and was included in the official list of such areas by the Ministry for the Environment, receiving 50 million old lire (£16,500 sterling) in assistance. This money has been used to build a magnificent Butterfly House, to restore a pond in the woods and to have printed a guidebook to the Reserve. And now more money is on the way, this time from the Region. It is expected to be used for studies and research. We shall be able to extend our knowledge of butterflies, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Good news indeed for the running of the Reserve in the future.

A growing sense of solidarity

Our work over the past 10 years has allowed us to meet a great many people: university students doing research or writing theses, and volunteers who have helped us in numerous ways. The Reserve has also become a SIC (Site of Community Importance). We must thank the butterflies for this (a number of rare Italian species like the Oriental Galatea and the Melanargia arge) and the birds: both the Sparrowhawk and the Honey-Buzzard nest here, while the Montagu's Harrier, the Red-Footed Falcon, the Osprey and the Stork pass through, and the winter months regularly see the Woodcock and the Stock Dove in residence.

The Reserve has formed a close bond with the people of Casacalenda, a bustling community of 2500 inhabitants - including 50 members of LIPU! Being on friendly terms with the local populace has always been a priority and the rapport has grown even stronger over the years. Our volunteers at present are local school children, who a few years ago came here on a school outing. Our links with Casacalenda have been even stronger for a few months now, since last October to be precise, when a severe earthquake struck the area, causing serious damage to older houses in the centres of many towns and villages and even rendering unstable the walls of what had been our Visitor Centre. Despite this blow, solidarity soon began to lessen its effects: several LIPU branches organised fund - raising trips, and a building contractor making ecological houses has promised to build us a new "quake-proof" Visitor Centre, free of charge!

So preparations are under way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Reserve. 2004 will see us engaged in a whole series of undertakings to promote even further this wonderful spot in Molise. The Casacalenda Council intends to continue its support of a LIPU Reserve and we, in turn, are aiming at becoming a Regional Nature Reserve, ultimately leading to our target of the entire area becoming one of sustainable development.

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BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL

A project to protect the Atlantic rainforest of Serra das Lontras in Brazil.

by Jaqueline Goerk

Serra das Lontras is a mountain complex stretching along the coast south of Bahia in north-east Brazil. The altitude ranges from 150 to 1000 metres and from it many rivers begin their long winding journeys to the sea. It is a remote stretch of humid jungle with a rich biodiversity and is one of the most important forested areas in the world. For centuries it has been the victim of uncontrolled exploitation by man, that has transformed it into an enormous mosaic of plantations and pastures and the destruction of the entire region called Boa Nova. It has been utter devastation of an area that until twenty years ago was unknown to biologists and other experts.

It was only during the 1990's that surveys revealed the exceptional importance of this area, which now holds the last sizeable fragment of forest in the region and is the refuge of at least nine species of birds that are under threat at global level. There are also two new species that have only recently been discovered.

Preserving biodiversity

Since 2000 BirdLife International has been working in Brazil thanks to support from the Council for Agriculture in Taiwan. It has concentrated largely on the Atlantic forest area. An initial census of IBA (Important Bird Areas) resulted in the identification of 161 sites, of which 15 were designated as of maximum priority, one of which being the Serra das Lontras.

Here, 223 birds have been identified, two of which are only recent discoveries, and in view of the biological uniqueness of the area it may be possible that there are more remaining to be discovered. 9 mammals, of which 4 are endemic, are under serious threat. Plant biodiversity is also significant, 458 trees alone being discovered in a single hectare.

A ruthless market

As a result of the crisis in cocoa during the 1990's many growers changed to more profitable enterprises such as the destructive cultivation of coffee, supplying timber to large exporters and turning their land over to pasture. Even though the price of cocoa has risen in the last year other problems have shown up in the local economy. New and expensive cultivation techniques have been introduced, massive amounts of pesticides and fertilisers are being used and the traditional "cabrucas" have been eliminated. Cabrucas is the local and traditional method of cultivating a particular variety called "shade cocoa", planted within the forest and requiring 30 - 60% forest cover, excellent for preserving biodiversity, especially birds.

Sustainable use

As a result of close collaboration between BirdLife International and its local partner, the Institute of Socio - environmental Studies in Southern Bahia and awareness campaigns, two co-operatives for biological cocoa growers have been established. They have succeeded in producing the same amount of cocoa without using fertilisers and pesticides. To be awarded the certificate for bio-cultivation at least 20% of the plantation must be within the forested and protected areas. "Shade cocoa" is being marketed under a "bird friendly" label in the USA. Five hectares of the BirdLife reserve are being cultivated under the old "cabrucas" system, providing sufficient income to offset the costs of management and surveillance. It is a model that could be expanded on a larger scale: to support the management of future nature reserves, generate income for the local population and become part of the system of protection of virgin forest.

What remains to be done?

Achieve recognition as "Nature Reserve" by the Federal Government.

Continue field research.

Further promotion at the local level of bio-cultivation of cocoa and using the traditional "cabrucas" method.

Help local farmers to market their cocoa in the American market.

Acquire more forested area to increase the size of the Nature Reserve.

Publish awareness programmes and promote educational activities at all levels, local, national and international.

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From LIPU - AN INTERVIEW

Vittorio Cavallaro has had a long connection with nature, from volunteer to vice-president of LIPU.

Vittorio Cavallaro, how long have you worked as a volunteer?

About twenty years, first as an ordinary member, then as delegate and in recent years as a Councillor. In the early 1980's my hobby was photographing birds. I came to realise what pressures the environment was being subjected to and it was then that I decided to contribute towards the conservation of habitat and species.

Are you as enthusiastic as you once were?

Yes, if anything it has grown as time goes on because I have always been on the look out for new stimuli, forming new objectives and trying to reach them.

From your long experience how has the environmental culture changed in LIPU?

In the 1980's there was a growing involvement of public opinion on environmental themes, but the stimulus was rather emotional and lacked a more cultural approach. Nowadays I think that the involvement of the general public is leading to more positive results although the whole process is now seen as being longer and more complex.

Is voluntary work in crisis?

If we just look at the number of people involved in voluntary work, then yes, but if we evaluate the reasons why people get involved then I would say that we should not talk in terms of crisis. We must be able to respond to the demands from young people who are aware that environmental issues, particularly in LIPU, are basic to future development.

Previously voluntary worker, now Vice-president of LIPU: how has your vision of the Association changed?

Being a Councillor allowed me to understand the complex structure of LIPU and its various parts. Now, in my new role, I want to make a contribution to its growth. To do that I believe it is very important to listen to the voices of LIPU members, who are the real heart of the Association. It is thanks to them that that important targets in the defence of nature are being met.

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NEWS FROM RESERVES AND CENTRES

Mediterranean Habitat Centre, Ostia.

We recently had a pleasant surprise in the 11-hectare wet-zone restored by the LIPU Centre. After 20 Ferruginous Duck successfully survived the winter, the presence of one pair in the spring gave cause for hope. They became more timid than usual and took to hiding away among the water plants. The great surprise arrived in July when, out of the dense vegetation an adult pair emerged, accompanied by five young. To think that in a place that was a rubbish dump only a few years ago, today there is a nesting site for one of the most threatened species of duck. A magnificent result and one that LIPU is very proud of.

Gravina di Laterza

To facilitate the reproduction of the Egyptian Vulture, the Lesser Kestrel, the Red Kite and the Black Kite, a 5-year project is under way in Puglia, in the Gravine di Laterza area. We are already in the operational stage, with dead meat for the birds and surveillance in the hands of LIPU. Next year we plan to start monitoring the birds of prey. This year in the Gravina di Laterza LIPU Reserve we have seen one pair of Lanner Falcon and two pairs of Black Kites nesting, in addition to about ten pairs of Lesser Kestrel, plus an attempt being made by a Black Stork. All of which goes to show just how important this site is, one of the most interesting IBAs in Puglia.

FROM AROUND ITALY

Purple Gallinule: new video.

This new video tells the story of the Purple Gallinule re-introduction project in Sicily. After being extinct in Sicily for almost 50 years 92 birds were re-introduced at the beginning of 1996 in two reserves, Biviere di Gela and Foco del Simeto. Last year at least two pairs succeeded in breeding, producing 5 young. It is planned to release another 20 - 30 birds by the end of 2003.

Turin: black market trade broken.

An operation by the LIPU regional Anti-poaching Unit has led to the confiscation of 91 Goldfinches, 10 Serins and a Greenfinch. Inspector Piergiorgio Candela and his colleague Antonio Colonna succeeded in thwarting some of the illegal traffic feeding the Turin black market. The birds had been obtained in Naples for onward transportation to Turin. Thanks to this LIPU operation the perpetrators risk a 12-month term in prison and a fine of 4000 euros. All the birds were set free.

Agriculture.

1700 arable farms in Emiglia-Romagna have benefited from finance from the CAP. 8,000 hectares of agricultural land, formerly under intensive cultivation, have been re-naturalised. One example is at the Valli del Montizzuolo Reserve, where about 460 hectares have been returned to their natural state. Several bird species, not seen for decades, have returned to breed in the area. They include the only colony in Italy of Whiskered Terns.

Operation "Lord of the Rings".

An operation carried out by the State Forest Rangers of the Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia has seriously cut into the illegal import trade of birds, coming from outside the EU from places such as Russia and Hong Kong. They were destined for buyers throughout the whole of north Italy. 9,000 birds were confiscated, along with 5,000 rings, two shotguns and hundreds of cartridges.

AND FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Cyprus: another form of polenta e osei.

The island of Cyprus is another place where small migrating birds are killed for the table. Last year, BirdLife Cyprus, in co-operation with an RSPB team, undertook an investigation into this form of poaching. Nets and birdlime are used, particularly to target blackcaps. The operation, in close collaboration with the police, was successful in apprehending many people involved in the illegal traffic, as well as the confiscation of equipment.

Caribbean: Bird festival.

The Caribbean region is among the most important at world level for the conservation of biodiversity. But unfortunately many endemic species of birds and plants are at risk of extinction. At the bird festival, organised last spring to promote the importance of nature, BirdLife Jamaica published a 3-year study that identified the main forested areas for bird protection on the island.

A summer of fire

A large number of fires in Portugal have caused serious environmental damage to thousands of hectares. They have affected 10 IBA in Portugal where specially protected species such as Imperial Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle and Black Storks have been put at risk.

In Italy, too, hundreds of thousands of birds have been consumed by the flames, which have destroyed 60,000 hectares of woodland and Mediterranean scrub. LIPU has requested the declaration of a national emergency and to impose sanctions on regions which have already declared a start to the shooting season.

Thousands of exhausted birds have been brought into LIPU centres, including swifts, martins, many raptors, as well as gulls, crows, blackbirds and other passerines. After treatment at LIPU centres many have been set free. In just May and June the Wildlife Recuperation Centre in Rome treated 2,555 wild creatures.

ACTION FOR NATURE

At every change of European Presidency, BirdLife International prepares a document entitled "Greening Europe". It describes the main features that a proper environmental policy ought to promote in Europe. This has now been done for the Italian presidential term. It includes arguments concerning agriculture, Nature 2000 Network and biodiversity, structural funding, environmental responsibility, the trans-European transport network, the next European Constitution and the special case of the Spanish Water Resources Plan.

The decisive challenge for nature conservation is in agriculture. The fate of many habitats and animal species depends upon "ecological" farming practices. Bad agriculture includes a reliance on chemicals and GM crops, but it also encompasses intensive farming, monoculture, and the disappearance of small habitats, such as hedgerows and ponds. Bad agriculture also means low quality products, uninteresting landscapes, poor living conditions for farm animals and loss of biodiversity. Good agriculture, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. But how are we to promote good practices? Certainly with the commitment of individual farmers, but especially with wide-ranging policies that make ecological agriculture really possible. In a key period for the reform of the CAP, LIPU and BirdLife International are asking for choices to be made that will lead to proper sustainability in European agriculture.

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News from LIPU-UK

You may have noticed a change to the title of the newsletter with the shortening from "Ali Notizie" to, more simply, "Ali" meaning "Wings". I shall be revising our style in the next layout along the lines of:.

Subject to petticoat approval, of course!

BBWF 2003

Once again LIPU-UK had a stand at the British Bird Watching Fair at Rutland Water in August, this time with new displays and a fresh new style. We met many of our members who stopped by for a chat and enrolled another 17 new members over the three days; to them we say, again, "Welcome" your support will make a difference.

A suggestion made by a member at the Fair was to show how the membership is spread among the regions in Italy and I'm putting a map on this page. It also shows where the regions are in Italy, so if you are unsure of that, I hope it will be interesting.

The membership of LIPU-UK is currently 1035 people living in 11 countries including the UK.

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BANKING CHANGES

It is never easy to change your bankers and it is particularly difficult if over a third of our members renew their subscriptions by Bankers Order.

However, exceptionally poor service over the last few years has made a change essential for us and, after much agonising we have decided to go ahead with the change.

Renewal by Bankers Order really does make life easier for us all and I am truly grateful to those who do. I am writing as you renew with a forn asking the bank to amend your Order. I apologise for the inconvenience and ask that you help me by passing this to your bank without delay.

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A word of sincere appreciation here for Brian Horkley, of Cambridge, who has translated our newsletters single handedly, until recently, for ten years. I am sure you all will join me in thanking Brian and the other members of the team for this essential work, always done quickly and to the highest standards.

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BIRDWATCHING IN ITALY

by David Lingard

Under that fairly bland heading I'd like to describe some of my experiences whilst trying to watch birds from Sicily to Pordenone in the far north east.

In 1990 I was one of the NATO AWACS aircrews and was based from time to time in Trapani on the west coast of Sicily. We had only a little free time which meant I couldn't range far from the base so I looked for some local knowledge. Asking one of the locals in Operations, "Where can I go to see birds?" he answered, "Just a moment, I'll ask the Colonel, he shoots them all the time.".

Later that year we moved to Aviano in Friuli and lived, for two or three weeks at a time, in Pordenone, a delightful town after the frugality of the air base at Trapani. Typical of my luck I met a local bird watcher, a LIPU member, on my very last visit in 1992, but we spent a day travelling the area and seeing excellent birds in the foothills of the Dolomites.

In 2001 I visited Puglia in the south as a guest of LIPU when LIPU-UK was presented with the annual award for the best section. The annual assembly was held over three days and most of the programme consisted of debates and speeches, so I played truant and, with Ugo Faralli, a willing and genial accomplice, we visited reserves at Lago Salso and Gravina di Laterza returning just in time for dinner!

This year Shirley and I decided to visit the Po delta in autumn, a break from our tradition of spending the first days of September in the French Pyrénées and we feasted on views of wetland birds in place of the raptors of the mountains.

The river reaches the Adriatic between Venice and Ravenna and all along the coast are wetlands, streams and branches of the river, but our first impression of the area was the importance of tourism. A string of beaches with their commercial camp sites, hotels and restaurants reminded me of the LIPU campaign to preserve a last stretch of unspoiled coast in the south. Building and commercial development appears to go ahead with little thought for the effect on the area, we saw a newly built Cash and Carry, the size of a small village but there was no obvious need for such a thing away from the large towns.

Much of the area is a Regional Park, but it isn't as simple as that, some areas are park where hunting is banned, yet on the other side of the road hunting may be allowed because that part of the delta is not in the fragmented park. The whole of the delta is certainly not protected, indeed some parts are traditional hunting estates hence the patchwork effect of protection on the ground.

It took us a couple of days to work out how to move around the region without using the main coast road which runs from Ravenna to Chioggia, the heavy truck traffic on this road seemed to be endless and nobody was taking prisoners. If visiting the area you'll find that accurate road maps are essential though a little hard to find - the "tourist maps" that we'd collected at the Birdwatching Fair were misleading and showed roads that didn't exist and vice versa.

These comments are not meant to sound negative they are just things we learned as we went along, things which might make future visits a little easier. Local food was anything but negative; not surprisingly fish was a speciality and out came the phrase book to discover what sort of fish we were being offered. It says much of the friendliness of the waiters that if we couldn't find the translation the fish would be brought from the kitchen for our approval, we still didn't know what it was, but it looked good! The fish dishes were invariably grilled to perfection and the result was always delicious, even anguilla- eel, a speciality of the region.

This summer has been exceptionally dry and hot in most of Europe and here there were unusually low water levels and some pools were completely without water - just cracked bowls of dry grey mud. The daytime temperatures had fallen from 40° to the mid twenties and we started to the north of our albergo where we found a tidal pool with over 30 Squacco Herons foraging on the floating vegetation. We looked harder and found more herons, Grey, Purple and Night all sitting in trees and bushes around the water interspersed with their cousins the Great White and Little Egrets. Over the water flew Gull-billed and Black Terns, a great spot and a good start to the holiday.

Birding highlights were Bee eaters near where we were staying, our first view of Caspian Tern, Black-necked Grebes on the huge lake, the Valli di Comacchio, waders, harriers and a confiding Night Heron who seemed happy to pose for photographs day after day.

After a dramatic thunderstorm one night the local dried out pool was wet again and there were waders standing shoulder to shoulder in the shallow water, where had they been the previous day?

After a few days of exploring and watching wetland birds we were ready for a change but we didn't take the opportunity of visiting Ferrara, I wanted another look at Pordenone, eleven years after my last visit. We set off in the trusty Punto hire car along the motorways past Venice and on for another hour to arrive in Pordenone to find all the shops closed and the parking free - a public holiday!

So we wandered around the centre of this lovely town and had lunch at a restaurant still run by the same couple who remembered my visits in the days when there was so much unhappiness in the Balkans.

Did we see any hunting? Despite various regions trying to authorise a "pre-season" we were spared any sign of shooting, but it was clearly a common event in the area, with the "Hunting Prohibited" signs fixed to every boundary fence of the protected areas and only two or three metres apart! This is a prime wetland area and is well worth a visit for the birds, the surrounding towns such as Comacchio and Ferrara and the regional food.

LIPU-UK THE FUTURE

On a more serious note, I think it is right to look to the long term future of LIPU-UK. We are well set to continue for the foreseeable future but we would be wise to plan for the unexpected.

The organisation is run by a team of six trustees with the day to day operations done largely by myself, as the British delegate, with Shirley's help. As I have mentioned earlier the essential work of translation from the Italian is done by a team of volunteers co-ordinated by Brian Horkley.

Although there are no changes planned in the near future. would you be interested in helping LIPU in any of these capacities should a vacancy occur in the future?

Trustees are responsible choosing the strategy of LIPU-UK and ensuring that we comply with all the rules governing charities. They meet three times a year near Rutland Water.

Translators work on the newsletters four times a year, but the very fact that there is a team means that it might be as little as one article a year or less - to suit the individual.

If you would like to know more please drop me a line and I'll give more detail with no obligation on your part whatsoever.

I hope you agree that looking ahead in this way is a sensible approach which is what one would expect of an organisation which is as mature as we are now.

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FINE ART PRINTS OF BLACK-WINGED STILTS

Some while ago Richard Hull, a well known wildlife artist was commissioned to paint a picture of these elegant birds for a limited edition of 750 prints

They were offered to members for £40 (unframed) but now we are able to offer the final few at a special price of £17.50 including postage and packing.

I have a descriptive sheet in colour which I'll be happy to send out to anyone who thinks they might be interested in having one of these beautiful prints. Just drop me a line, again you'll be under no obligation until you've seen the full details of this offer.

DO YOU HAVE E-MAIL?

Brian and I subscribe to the LIPU email list and he collects snippets of news and publishes them by email to members who can read this. I've mentioned this in the past but we've been surprised that we reach only 140 by this means.

A typical item in "Frammenti" follows but this will never replace the traditional newsletters:

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REGIONS - APPLICATIONS FROM LIPU AND OTHER ASSOCIATIONS FOR THE SUSPENSION OF HUNTING.

In view of the particular weather conditions being suffered by Italy this summer and their effect on the habitats of numerous species, a request has been made to put back the opening of the hunting season in some of the Regions. The aim would be to avoid putting even more pressure on wildlife that is already exhausted by the adverse climatic conditions and violent fires that have struck most of Italy.

Accurate evaluations are demanded for each region, as required under National law for the protection of wildlife and hunting.

In addition to the long drought there have also been violent downpours recently in the north, particularly in Piemonte, Lombardia, Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige. Fires have scorched the centre and south, in Calabria, Sardinia, Lazio, Campania, Puglia and Sicily, as well as many areas further north. It is estimated that in the first seven months of the year some 41,152 hectare have burnt, 21% more than the previous year.

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If you would like to join those who receive "Frammenti" please send me an e-mail and it will be done.

The translation of this issue by Alan Morgan, John Walder and Brian Horkley

All the line drawings in the Ali Notizie are used with the kind permission of the RSPB.