Download the LIPU-UK Annual Report 2008-2009 here

Ali (Wings) - December 2009

Editorial December 2009

THE FUTURE DOES NOT BELONG TO US

It is sometimes difficult to understand the short-sightedness that afflicts so many who have the power to influence not just our lives, but those of our grandchildren. Add to that greed, self interest and, sometimes, corruption and it is often hard to be optimistic.

I am thinking of the meetings of great nations to do something to protect the planet from its human inhabitants. Kyoto was a start, except that the USA decided that it wasn’t involved in pollution and that climate change was in the imaginations of the prophets of doom. Didn’t George Bush respond to the questions by saying the USA “has a lot of trees”?

Now the world’s leading nation has a new leader, one who offered change and hope and where is he now when he is needed?

In December, as this is being printed, the Climate Change summit will be held in Copenhagen and, already, it is becoming clear that little will be decided. Nothing will be enshrined in law – nothing will be binding on the nations of this world to stop talking and do something important.

This edition of the Ali has much on the need for positive, real action from the summit; a need that is likely to be denied, but also, we celebrate those who do something for nothing. The volunteers who give their time and effort for something in which they believe in an attempt to leave the planet a little better than when they found it.

Not for them politics, greed, self interest – just the chance to do something that matters. Perhaps these are the sort of people who should be in the positions of power and influence?

THE COPENHAGEN CHALLENGE

The next conference on climate will perhaps be the last chance to take action and to establish a real global policy to protect the environment and our biodiversity.

Ten years ago, they called us scaremongers. Many, too many people, unfortunately even experts and scientists, held serious doubts regarding the existence of a “climate problem”. As so often happens in these cases, nature itself had to convince the sceptics. Now nobody can really deny the evidence that in recent years there have been anomalous changes in climate, more than in any other period in history and more than ever caused by man – a fact that is, incredibly, still denied by many.

For decades, greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere as if the environment were an infinite resource; as if man were the only species that should benefit from its fruits. Little has been done to counteract the problem except for mere token gestures for brief periods such as the limitation of traffic for a few days a week in some built-up areas. The most industrialised countries have done virtually nothing to deal with the problem of climate change as if this generation had the sole rights to nature’s resources, leaving nothing to our children and grandchildren.

Then, in 1997 came the Kyoto protocol. An important result despite the many contradictions (in particular the non-adherence of the United States, the world’s most powerful, industrialised nation, responsible for a third of global pollution) which saw for the first time the problem of climate changing emissions on the world’s agenda.

Ten years have passed since Kyoto and it is time to look at the results. Many of the aims of the Protocol – which became official in 2005 – have not been achieved. This is due, in part, to the order in which the world’s main states adhered to the document. In the meantime, new countries have burst onto the world’s economic stage, countries that are unwilling to impose any real environmental policy which could hinder their economic growth. The West has been reaping the benefits of pollution for decades and it is no mean task to convince the newer economic powers – not just China and India, but also Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia and South Africa – not to do the same.

But nature is here to convince us. Cataclysms of all kinds – floods, tropical storms and devastating droughts are increasingly common all over the world. Very often the poorer, under-developed countries consider Kyoto an obstacle to growth or as a luxury, but they are the ones to suffer the worst catastrophes. The United States itself, having adhered to the Protocol under Clinton, withdrew under Bush and it was during Bush’s administration that the state of Louisiana was hit by one of the worst floods in American history. A coincidence perhaps. Now hope comes in the form of Obama. “The threat is serious and time is running out” said the new President, “if we don’t want to leave an inevitable catastrophe to the next generations”.

Obama, along with the leaders of the other industrialised countries, will be present at the Conference on climate change in Copenhagen from December 7th to 18th 2009. The Conference will give an ideal and unique opportunity for the world’s leaders to defend the environment against the damaging effects of modern development.

LIPU, alongside fellow members of the BirdLife International network, will bring its own proposals to Copenhagen and will try, above all, to explain the real situation of the biodiversity of our planet and to show just how much has already been lost due to pollution and climate change. “Anything we do to protect any one species, biodiversity or environment cannot but help improve the quality of our own lives and those of the generations to come”. These are the words of Danilo Mainardi, Honorary President of LIPU, in his introduction to the LIPU pamphlet on climate change.

Birds lose their habitats and seasonal changes upset breeding patterns and the food supply. The same is happening to the world’s animals and plants, creating a chain reaction that will destroy the ecosystem of which we, ourselves, are part. Perhaps the best thing is to start again with these simple questions that LIPU has tried to answer in this pamphlet produced together with the Ministry for the Environment. They are the same questions to which the politicians will have to give convincing, concrete answers. If there is a risk, it is that the economic crisis will be used as an excuse not to act now. But it is now that our modes of development must change – beginning with the financial system – and it is extremely important that a new policy is adopted. Of course, we must not forget the great steps taken in recent years, but we must also be aware that it is time to move faster. “Because now there are no doubts”, writes Danilo Mainardi, “we only have a few years and then it will be too late”.

What are the causes of climate change?

It’s worth reflecting on this question before considering possible counter measures. For years, the sceptics have been using it as an alibi. Are we really to blame for global warming? It is enough to consider just a few figures – the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 40% in the last 200 years, that is since the first industrial revolution. Industry, but also cars, heating, intensive agriculture and all the activities that require the use of fossil fuels, have been causing climate change, as has extensive deforestation, itself responsible for 25% of emissions because of the CO2 which is not absorbed.

The average temperature of the earth’s surface has increased by almost one degree since the pre-industrial era and our society is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Experts are now convinced, the Indian monsoon system is on the verge of collapse and the African one will follow suit within the next ten years. The Arctic snow cap, at this rate, will not exist in ten years time and in fifty, the Amazon rainforest will be a distant memory. The Atlantic currents, fundamental climate regulators as well as important ecosystems for certain species such as the Atlantic Puffin, will suffer radical changes during the next century with unthinkable consequences for the biodiversity and for the life of man.

What is happening and how fast?

For the last 10,000 years the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has been, on average, 280 parts per million. Now it is 550. These levels have changed more in the last 100 years than in the last 100 centuries and were the temperature to rise by an average of two degrees (which it will if this rate continues) – the climate would be hotter than it has been for two million years. A situation of this nature, particularly for countries like Italy, would be devastating – the desert would advance, the seasons would no longer exist and climatic conditions would be extreme with frequent heat waves, storms and floods.

How will these climate changes influence the flora and fauna?

A million species will be threatened with extinction by the year 2050. Polar bears will be extinct by 2080 and the sea bird population will have been devastated. These are only some of the effects that global warming will have on the biodiversity of our planet. Many species will move further north to ‘follow’ their habitat. But that is by no means all. The seasons will change and the nesting season will no longer coincide with the food supply which will particularly affect the migratory species. Many birds have already changed route or have simply ceased to migrate – others have changed their nesting times (such as Long-eared and Little Owls) or their migration times (such as the Swallow) and many species, of course, have been decimated by extreme weather conditions. Birds will be forced to compete with each other in a desperate fight for survival.

What can we do?

We cannot predict accurately the destiny of any particular species because of the rapidity of change and other variables, but there are several things we can do now. One of these, of course, would simply be to stop polluting, at least not to this extent. Habitats should be defended and protected. Paradoxically. we should also take stock of the fact that the climate is already changing and act accordingly. We must also create inter-connected protected areas – the main objective of Rete Natura 2000 – thereby preventing the fragmentation of animal populations and habitats. There must also be more protected areas.

LIPU faces a real challenge. Having accepted the fact that climate change is already a reality and that only strong animal and plant populations will be able to adapt to the new circumstances, it must act in such a way as to prevent any more damage to biodiversity. In order to achieve these objectives, the conservation policies that have been adopted until now must be reconsidered. Contributions will be required from all sectors, from the government and its institutions, from public administrations and from private citizens.

Italy, following the Convention on Biological Diversity, and having adhered to Countdown 2010, has officially pledged to stop the damage to biodiversity. On a local level, there are laws regarding birds and their habitats and other initiatives to protect the ecology. Local, national, European and international policies will play a key role in enforcing existing legislation and in creating new laws. Copenhagen will be not only an important cross-roads but a vital one.

* * *

THE GOLDEN EAGLE, QUEEN OF THE MOUNTAINS

by Marco Gustin, LIPU species and research

This symbol of our mountain summits is on the increase throughout Italy, but remains under threat.

The Golden Eagle, that most impressive and majestic winged creature of the mountains, is the absolute monarch of the skies and, as befits a queen, has a golden head from which the scientific name Aquila chrysaetos comes. It is a supreme predator which can reach great heights, navigating past overhanging rock faces, giving anyone lucky enough to see it the sensation of both power and lightness. In wing span, it is second only to the sea eagle and vultures in Europe. Its proud upright posture, great beak and mighty claws combine to make it a very handsome bird, the emblem of the Alps and the Apennines.

In Italy, it is found along the main mountain ranges of the peninsula and the larger islands. The greatest population density is in the Alps. Here, it is possible, with a bit of luck, to spot its huge, unmistakable outline as it emerges suddenly from the rocks onto the horizon to soar in circles or regain height after a spectacular nose dive.

The Golden Eagle occupies one area, moving great distances in search of food. Each pair makes use of a wide territory in which to build several nests, occupying them in rotation. The nests are usually built on a ledge of a rock face or in a natural cavity. One or two eggs are laid every spring and if conditions are favourable two young may fledge. More often, however, the pair succeeds with only one of their offspring.

The growth in population in the Apennines and, even more in the Alps, is a positive sign, but dangers still exist. We need to protect their nesting sites and feeding areas from human disturbance which can be caused, perhaps unwittingly, by rock climbing or hang-gliding. A return to traditional farming in the mountains would prevent over forestation and the loss of the open landscape in which the eagles find their prey. As with other raptors in Italy, the eagle is under pressure from poachers and some, but thankfully only a few, are killed accidentally.

Norda and LIPU unite for a “A New Flight”

Thanks to important support from the mineral water company, Norda, a project was launched in February this year. Called “A New Flight”, it promises to give us a better understanding of the dangers that make life difficult for the eagles in the IBAs (Important Bird Areas) of the Alps and Apennines. The results of this study, which will continue until December, will enable LIPU to promote a more effective “blueprint for coexistence between man and mountain”. The study will also allow LIPU to identify the areas of the greatest value for protection in the years to come. In the course of 2009, the public will also have been informed about the project and the threats to our eagles.

* * *

FROM THE ALPS TO COPENHAGEN

Countdown 2010 has failed. The ecological networks, called for in the statutes, are less visible on the ground. The protected areas, although greater in number, run the risk of remaining as disconnected islands. The Great and the Good must show themselves equal to the task and turn good intentions into results. Happily, there have been good outcomes even here in Italy.

Firstly, at Varese, to the north of Milan and in sight of the Alps, the Cariplo Foundation has funded the first feasibility study in Italy for the implementation of a true ecological network. In addition, the project will be “exported” into nearby Piedmonte.

There has been talk for many years, often in these pages, of ecological networks and the potential these offer in combating the fragmentation of ecosystems, a prime cause of declining biodiversity.

It was in 1991 in Holland, that the subject of ecological networks was first raised with the EECONET project; the concept was better defined in America a little later, the ecological network being described as “A unique system comprising protected core areas, buffer areas and the corridors that connect them”. The following year, the concept of the ecological network arrived on the agenda of the Rio Conference which set down in black and white the “Convention on Biodiversity”, a document subscribed to by 157 countries.

In those years too, the politics of nature conservation was enriched by new themes and was linked to wider concepts such as democratic participation, sustainable development and the reduction of inequality. Meanwhile, the legislative basis for the European ecological network was being completed with Natura 2000 and to the 1979 Birds Directive was added the Habitats Directive which complemented its predecessor in that it protected habitats as well as the birds themselves.

From the idea of a protected area which is isolated in a landscape controlled by mankind, one moves to the concept of contiguous areas having the greatest environmental and scenic interest. This is a key transition, the product of the debates of the last 19 years and of the vital legislative measures that have been adopted, at least in Europe. And the individual states? They have accepted the contents of the international treaties, of the European directives and have identified new areas for protection under the Natura 2000 network (Special Protection Areas for birds and Sites of Community Importance for other fauna and habitats).

A true network?

But do these new protected areas form a true network according to the spirit of the law? Twenty years on, do we indeed have a web of natural areas placed under various levels of protection that permit plant and animal species to migrate, invade, interact and breed, in order to maintain an acceptable degree of biodiversity?

In reality, if one studies the maps, we see a succession of green areas, badly connected to each other, that risk becoming more like the old system of protected areas than the new concept of a dynamic network in constant evolution. The aforementioned Great and the Good, who will meet again in Copenhagen in December, will have to make the outcomes of Kyoto count, with the failure of “Countdown 2010” and with the pressing need to convert good intentions into concrete action.

Nevertheless, in Europe, we do not lack good examples in the way of ecological networks. In Italy’s case, a major success has been “Ecological Connectivity for Biodiversity”, undertaken by LIPU in collaboration with the Cariplo Foundation, the largest private philanthropic organisation in Italy, and various local bodies (the Lombardy Region, Provinces and Parks) to give shape on the ground to the concept of ecological networks. The first step is the delineation of a “Chart of Ecological Connectivity” for the Natura 2000 sites in Varese Province. This is based on the identification of so-called reservoirs of biodiversity – areas in which are found the greatest number of plant and animal species – and then, that of primary and secondary corridors, the routes which link these areas. It is the naming, in short, of the critical passageways, the “hinges” which allow the joining of two naturally related areas.

The work does not stop here; the studies of naturalists have then been expanded by follow-up investigations in urban areas to assess the degree of risk for the pathways that have been identified, analysing the projections for development in the area in the next few years. From this have come two technical reports which have defined the “emergence of connectivity” within the province, whether at the level of fauna and flora or of local planning. The work has produced highly satisfactory results, so that the Cariplo Foundation has promoted a further phase, exploring the possibility of linking two already identified corridors, to create a final piece in the jigsaw which in Lombardy will allow the linking of the Alps to the Po.

There is a major involvement of the local population in all phases of the project which will finish in September 2010 with the launch of a new stage of the work, beginning the physical management of the land so as to promote defragmentation. Support from the institutions is also important, from the Province of Varese and the Lombardy Region as well as from the local authorities. The result, a year from now, will be the completion of the first feasibility study in Italy for the creation of a true ecological network, modifying land use so as to give free movement to wildlife and to defend, therefore, in concrete terms, the biodiversity of our country.

A Network of Reserves

To export the Varese experience is certainly possible. A project, supported and financed by the Cariplo Foundation, is already in motion. This is the “Network of Reserves”, and involves the neighbouring province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola. Starting this October, it will run for 15 months with the aim of preparing a similar scheme of ecological connectivity for the Piedmontese province. This will be based on Parks, Reserves and Natura 2000 sites which, modelling itself on the Varese project, will lead to the identification of corridors and, therefore, to the defining of a functional and appropriate network of links between the areas. In this case too, cooperation between the local bodies, Parks, Provinces and Communes, will be fundamental.The project has a total investment of over €650,000 in addition to the €200,000 directly invested by the Cariplo Foundation for the feasibility study relating to the ecological network of the Province of Varese.

* * *

LIPU VOLUNTEERS

Inspired by a love of nature and in the front line of all the Association’s activities. These are the features common to all the LIPU volunteers of whom the first ‘census’ has just been carried out.

They are the heart and soul of LIPU. They work effectively today to guarantee the environment for tomorrow. The Association has a large number of volunteers; they form a diverse group, from many different backgrounds, but they are united in a love of the natural world and in their desire to make use of their skills, abilities, spare time and enthusiasm to pursue LIPU’s objectives.

Safeguarding nature, protecting wild animals and caring about birds – all these unite the Association’s supporters. But to be a volunteer is to take a step further – to get out into the field and take part in the great challenge which LIPU tackles with enthusiasm – to build a future of harmony between man and nature.

The activities of volunteers have influenced the Association since its inception, their values being upheld throughout the whole country. The many groups working under the symbol of the Hoopoe provide, from their commitment and passion, the lifeblood to continue to inform the public, to protect the birds, to monitor their distribution and the state of health of individual species. From the recovery of injured animals to environmental education and from the management of reserves to surveillance, the volunteers are in the front line of LIPU’s fundamental activities. Without them, LIPU would lose its wings and its ability to ‘take off and fly’.

But who makes up these precious branches of the Association? How many are ready to go into action to conserve the natural world? LIPU decided to get to know its volunteers better, not only to understand more about the workforce on whom it relies, but also to draw up a more complete profile of these people. Their ages, their occupations and their fields of study, were part of an in-depth analysis of the tasks that they perform for the Association. This will provide useful information and will enable work to improve and for strategic plans to be made in a more effective way.

With these aims in mind, the first survey of LIPU’s volunteers in Italy was carried out at the beginning of this year. It has been a broad study in which the Association has also wanted to highlight those who work behind the scenes and to say thank you to them.

The survey has been completed and we can now share the results about these special people and what it means to them to be LIPU volunteers.

Finally, a comment from LIPU volunteer Pietro: “The birds are unable to express their thanks to you in words, the only expectation you have of them is that of flight, the most extraordinary thing in the world”.

“Hello, I’m a LIPU volunteer”

What makes a LIPU volunteer? In January 2009, LIPU started a survey focussing on volunteers, their thoughts, their motivations. This is the first time in its 40-year history that LIPU has carried out a survey of this type and the response from Local Branches, Oases and Recovery Centres has been truly exceptional.

The role of volunteers is of strategic importance, both as an opportunity for future growth and as a vehicle for influence. Under Italian law, LIPU is a non-profit organisation, self-regulating with the power to form agreements with public bodies. But above all, it is an organisation of volunteers, so it is important to understand the positive and negative aspects of volunteering, its strengths and weaknesses, risks, problems and opportunities.

As part of a process of renewal that started in 2006, LIPU drew up a strategic plan that led to the formation of a group which represents the branch organisations and a department specifically devoted to volunteering.

The survey aims to provide an analysis of the role of volunteers in the environmental, political, social and economic framework of Italy. The plan revolves around two different questionnaires – one for branches, and one for oases and centres. Putting people at the centre of the analysis was very important to us. We wanted to make it possible for them to say what they really thought and to reveal the reasons leading to their involvement. So, in addition to the questionnaires, we asked a small, representative group of delegates, councillors, patrols and other volunteers one simple question, “What does being a LIPU volunteer mean to you?” Their answers gave us food for thought, revealing a world full of passion, ethics, shared objectives, pride in results and an attention to detail.

A thousand volunteers

The survey estimates a total of between seven hundred and one thousand volunteers. The oases and centres contribute more than one hundred volunteers and the LIPU branches more than four hundred. In addition there are 81 delegates, 104 patrol members and 20 councillors. The total fluctuates during the course of a year; while some volunteers work on a permanent basis, between 150 and 200 people work temporarily, either during peak season or for special events.

Portrait of a volunteer

The “typical” LIPU volunteer is aged between 20 and 40, male, a public employee and has a good education. The average age is below 40, but a good number of volunteers are aged between 40 and 60. A small minority of volunteers are aged over 60.

The commonest occupations, apart from public employees, are factory workers and students, followed by office workers. Less common are professionals, housewives and managers. Pensioners and craftsmen complete the picture.

“I strongly believe that altruism is an innate part of human nature. Speaking for myself, I have done (and still do) voluntary work for LIPU, happy that my skills contribute towards a deserving cause.” (Dànilo, LIPU volunteer)

“When I was 12, and already a LIPU member, I was thrilled to save a little bird which had fallen from its nest;.When I was 20, I joined a LIPU patrol to help fight poachers, when I was 30 and a lawyer, I set up the national list of lawyers to help defend nature in court. Now at 40, I fight alongside LIPU so that my two children will be able to enjoy nature”. (Fabio, LIPU volunteer)

Doing one’s utmost to save birds and their world means doing one’s best to protect the ecosystem in which we all live. The disappearance of one species is a defeat for everybody, a step backwards and a loss for all living creatures on the planet.

The LIPU volunteers know this very well and have taken on this responsibility on behalf of everybody. They work through disappointments and successes, taking on laborious, but ultimately richly satisfying activities. They cover a range of tasks, from the never ending recovery and treatment of injured birds, through basic environmental education, to monitoring work and holding evening meetings to explain what they do.

At least five thousand rescues are carried out each year by volunteers, without counting all the other rescue operations by centres not managed by the Sections. A survey has shown that half the volunteers take rescued birds to LIPU Centres, 28% take them to centres managed by other associations and 22% take care of them in other ways.

Environmental education is of prime importance in the activities of the Delegations. Local LIPU sections are convinced that the foundation on which future harmony with the environment can be built is based on nurturing wider environmental awareness, respect for biodiversity together with teaching about nature, especially amongst young people.

The most common activities, such as rescuing wild animals and managing Rescue Centres, organizing excursions, and collaborating in counting and monitoring species, are fundamental to the identification of the health of species at risk and the establishment of the best “rescue” strategy. Great efforts are made to arrange information evenings in order to make more people aware of LIPU and to provide birdwatching courses to involve people of all ages in the discovery of the fascinating world of our feathered friends.

This has the added advantage of increasing members. Then there are tasks such as monitoring, counting and anti-poaching. There are in fact plenty of volunteers to manage or help in the management of LIPU Oases, or take part in volunteer camps, and people who work for the Association at national level.

LIPU Delegates

The profile shown here analyses the characteristics of the 81 LIPU delegates who participated in the census. The majority were men aged between 40 and 50 and a slightly smaller number were between 50 and 60. However, there was a reasonable number of younger delegates aged between 30 and 40 years. Occupations were more diverse – some self-employed professional people, but also some public administration staff, working and retired. A minority are workers or students.

Very many are highly educated. More than half the delegates hold a degree, usually after five years’ study, and some have even obtained a doctorate or master’s degree.

LIPU on the ground

Throughout Italy, there are about a hundred LIPU sections, 81 of which took part in the survey. On the basis of their replies, it was possible to estimate that the majority are able to use premises, usually provided free by public authorities. These are places in which people can meet, share experiences and organise Section activities – important bases to organise the work on the ground for which they are responsible. There is the problem that almost half the Sections do not possess a telephone connection, even though the majority can communicate by email.

Within the sphere of each Section, the volunteers’ meetings are usually arranged on a monthly basis and in most cases, between five and ten people attend.

“More and more people only think about the present in a selfish way. LIPU helps you think not only about the present, but it provides a long term perspective. I am proud of being part of this movement which expresses concern for the environment and for people”. (Alberto, LIPU volunteer)

“For me, being a LIPU volunteer means doing my utmost to help fauna in difficulty. It means explaining to people that the environment that surrounds us is also ours and that we are obliged to respect it”. (Giovanni, LIPU volunteer)

“At times, being a volunteer makes you think you are tilting at windmills like Don Quixote, but it keeps you believing that it is worth fighting, worth responding to a real, widespread need: keeping nature alive”. (Kinga, LIPU volunteer)

* * *

INTERVIEW

by Andrea Mazza LIPU Press Officer

“Yes, we can!”

Within the space of a generation, many landscapes and species, that from time immemorial have graced our planet, will disappear. However, this scenario must not discourage us, but must stimulate us to fight even more, says Marco Lambertini, Director General of BirdLife International.

Director of LIPU from 1990 to 1997, then Global Director of Programmes for BirdLife International, this year Marco Lambertini achieved the most prestigious position of his long career, that of Director General of the international network for the protection of avifauna.

What future do you see for nature and the biodiversity of the planet?

“No one can doubt that we are confronting the greatest challenge ever faced by humanity. While researchers continue to discover new species, many are becoming extinct and more will be come extinct in the future – 20% of mammals, 12% of birds and 30% of amphibians. At this rate, the lifetime of the younger generation – and certainly of their children – will see the disappearance of many places and species that we inherited after four billion years of evolution. It will have a serious impact on our quality of life, and on our survival. This depressing scenario must not discourage us, but should stimulate us even more to fight to influence the just and necessary choices that must be made.”

What can and must be done?

“We must use natural resources in a sympathetic way that allows their regeneration. Then there are ecosystems, such as the seas and forests which are the lungs, the reserves of water, the systems for storing carbon, these are the true engines for the ecosystem and global climate. The 20%, perhaps 30% or more, of emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, producing the greenhouse effect are due to deforestation in the tropics driven by consumers and investments that often originate in the richest part of the world. Now is the time to uphold the value of nature and of the services of the ecosystems, developing an ecological economy that rewards those who preserve and punishes those who impoverish. The concerns about carbon and forests will be discussed at the December meeting in Copenhagen to offer financial incentives to the countries which protect their forests. This is an enormous opportunity that BirdLife powerfully supports.

And the birds?

They are exceptional indicators of all this. They show the problems and in the same breath the solutions. The last Red List of Birds of the World from BirdLife and the IUCN – the major world network for the conservation of nature – pointed the finger at the principal threats, the degradation of the habitat, the introduction of exotic animals and invasive plants. But they did not miss the good news. As we said at first – Yes, we can!

The world partnership of BirdLife numbers –

• 112 national partnerships including LIPU for Italy
• 4,000 members of staff
• 2.5 million associates
• 10 million supporters
• two million children involved in campaigns and activities
• a million hectares managed or in ownership

* * *

LIPU’S OASIS AT ARCOLA

by Ugo Faralli, in charge of LIPU’s Oases and Reserves

Fifteen years ago came the spark – the initial idea. Mauro Biagioni, LIPU’s Spezia delegate, together with volunteers and birdwatchers, was gripped by the idea of creating an artificial egret colony along a stretch of the River Magra.

At that time, they had observed, recorded and photographed hundreds of egrets and Grey and Night Herons constantly coming and going between the low-lying waters and the dense riverside vegetation. The colony was created and, for a short time, attracted ever greater numbers of herons and other bird species. But it was essentially no more than a pretext for bringing to the attention of the local authorities the importance of this area directly opposite the urban spread of Arcola. And so, with the support of the province of Spezia, the Oasis for the protection of wildlife was born, immediately becoming part of the territory of the Montemarcello-Magra Regional Park which was just then being formed.

Jump several years and here we are at the opening of the new Visitors’ Centre of LIPU’s Arcola Oasis. We chose the recent EuroBirdwatch on October 3rd 2009 to present this new facility to the public and to our members. The artificial egret colony no longer exists, though the herons are still present, but closer to the river we now have this new point of reference for bringing the Oasis and this part of the Park to the attention of the public.
It is thanks to a special agreement with the Regional Park and the support of the Province of Spezia and the Commune of Arcola that the Oasis has begun, or rather continued, with its programme of nature conservation, education and environmental awareness. To coincide with the inaugural day, the local authorities have sent a message confirming their support for the future of the area to our Director General, Elena D’Andrea.

Davide Barcellone is in charge of the reserve and, together with the LIPU volunteers, has worked hard over the last months to prepare for the inauguration and the first phase of the management of the Oasis.The paths have been sign-posted and information panels put in place while the birds in the reserve have been monitored. Nature events have been organised as have guided visits for schools. Alongside this have come ideas and proposals, developed with the aid of the local authorities. The support of our volunteers is always a value that cannot be forgotten.

For LIPU, the inauguration of an Oasis, and in the case of Arcola a new Visitor Centre, is the beginning and not the end of a process. For at least another fifteen years!

* * *

LIPU’s LATERZA GORGE OASIS

(Gravina di Laterza)

Outside the most beautiful of Italy’s canyons with Lanners dashing in flight and Spanish Wheatears singing tunefully, there is the reassuring presence of thousands of centuries-old trees among the overhanging rocks. Inside, in the heart of LIPU’s Laterza Gorge Oasis, there are new buildings for visitors and especially for children and young people.

The last ten years have seen 6,000 students, from kindergarten to senior school, take part in 300 classes. From November 1st, they will enjoy new facilities including an Eco games room, a classroom, a small botanical garden and a wooden footbridge with disabled access. This bridge will link the Visitor Centre with the nearest viewpoint over the gorge near the beginning of the nature trail.

All of which makes it possible for a vast range of visitors to come close to the fascinating environment of the gorge and experience the excitement as this great gash in the earth, this furrow of rocks and trees, comes into view.

The new work has been possible thanks to the local authorities who have supported our management of the gorge since 1999 and to finance from the Commune of Laterza and the Region of Puglia for the “safeguarding and development of nature and the environment”.

With this support over the years, we can see how our ideas and proposals have come to fruition. The first steps were the creation of the Oasis as an important place for nature and people, then followed the project for protecting rare and threatened species such as Black and Red Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Lanner and Lesser Kestrel and particularly, the efforts on behalf of the Egyptian Vulture. Then it was the turn of the infrastructure for people.

Together with Vittorio, Francesco and Paola, our local representatives and volunteers, our next step will be the renewal of the agreement for many years.

NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

A year ago I was in Sardinia and taking a small part in the anti-poaching camp in the hills around Capoterra. The camp was repeated in 2009, funded again by LIPU-UK, this year it was visited by James Parry, a member who lives in Kings Lynn.

James is a freelance journalist and was commissioned by the BBC Wildlife Magazine to write about the trapping of thrushes and other birds which still goes on in Sardinia. The piece is planned to appear in the January 2010 edition.

James writes to Giovanni Malara, organiser of the anti-poaching camp, “I had a fantastic time, very useful and enjoyable, and returned to England full of admiration for what you are doing.” which echoes, very closely, my feelings last year.

* * *

THE ANNUAL DRAW

The 2009 annual draw has been another modest success with our costs covered and over £2000 raised for our 2010 projects. My thanks to those who donated prizes and to those who bought tickets. To those supporters who wrote to say, “No more tickets, please.” - your wish has been easily fulfilled.

* * *

ANNUAL REPORT 2008-09

A copy of our annual report and a summary of the financial health of LIPU-UK is included for members. This information has been submitted to the Charity Commission and anyone wishing to see it can do so by entering our registration number, 1081826, in the search box at http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/

* * *

My thanks, as always, go to the translators of this issue:

Barbara Avery, Joanna Bazen, Carol Debney, Tony Harris, Hugh Horne, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty and John Walder.

* * *

Line drawings are used courtesy of the RSPB and the photographs in this edition are © David Lingard.

* * *