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Ali (Wings) - December 2010

Editorial December 2010

TEETH NEEDED - NOW!

Whatever you think of the European Union, one has to marvel that it works at all. The challenge of developing policies that will apply to all nations is insuperable and that is acknowledged with the system of derogation which has been in the news so much recently. However, I am not writing of the troubles currently afflicting the Euro, but of those threatening the birds of Europe.

The Eurofficials sit in their offices and decide the conditions applying to their departmental interests which the nations can use to say, “This doesn’t apply to us,” and they sit back and congratulate themselves on their creative skills. They have done their job and now it is up to the Member States to enforce the directives.

What happens when the Member State fails to comply? The whole force of European Law now swings slowly into some sort of action as “Infraction Proceedings” are started. So far, so good, you might say – the Member States are threatened with massive fines if they don’t correct their failure to comply.

Are those fines ever imposed? Are they ever collected? Does anything ever change?

It seems not and Italy seems incapable of controlling the Regions’ abuses of the powers of derogation devolved to them. As they publish their hunting seasons, we see a very mixed picture with some good news in Calabria, but the same old story in the Veneto.
The whole subject of derogation is complex, but at its heart, there are only three cases in which derogation from the hunting restrictions of the Birds Directive can be applied. I quote from the directive:

1. Member States may derogate from the provisions of Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8, where there is no other satisfactory solution, for the following reasons:

(a) - in the interests of public health and safety,

- in the interests of air safety,

- to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water,

- for the protection of flora and fauna;

(b) for the purposes of research and teaching, of re-population, of re-introduction and for the breeding necessary for these purposes;

(c) to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis, the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers.

These conditions don’t offer much scope to the hunter but they are wrongly applied year after year in Italy and it is time it was stopped. The European Court has imposed substantial fines – they should now be collected and the law enforced.

CONFERENCE ON BIODIVERSITY IN JAPAN, BUT CUTBACKS IN FUNDING FOR PARKS IN ROME

The tenth Conference of Parties (COP10) of the Biological Diversity Convention signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was held in Nagoya, Japan, from 18th-29th October. The Conference could only take note of the failure, in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, to meet global targets set in 2002 by the heads of state and government which demanded “reductions in the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010”. In short, if in 2002 there was a certain annual percentage loss of species, the objective was, even though annual rates of loss might still be high, that they should be reduced by 2010. The EU set itself an even stricter target: “to arrest” the loss of biodiversity (not the rate of loss) by 2010. Neither the global, nor the decidedly more ambitious European, objectives have been met. Moreover, it could be the case (the figures are not yet definitive) that the global rate of loss of biodiversity over the last ten years, has in fact increased!

So, what useful initiatives can be taken to change this worrying situation? A very interesting step forward, presented at the Nagoya conference, is the TEEB (The Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) study. The purpose of this research is to apply the equivalent of the “Stern Report” for climate change to the subject of biodiversity. When the Stern Report was drawn up by the economist of the same name for Tony Blair, then the UK Prime Minister, the costs to the world economy of not acting to combat climate change were shown for the first time. The TEEB study has done likewise for the variety of species and ecosystems on our planet. Let us hope that this will be sufficient to put nature conservation at the centre of the international political agenda, before it is too late.

And in Italy? Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo went to Nagoya, taking with her, to her credit, the eagerly awaited new National Strategy for Biodiversity. We would have wished for a more detailed discussion of the contents of the Strategy, but at least we have one. One result of action by LIPU, which presented a document of observations on the first draft of the Strategy, was to have included in the text one specific clause regarding conservation areas and another clause about the impact of the Italian system on global biodiversity.

It is regrettable, then, that the Minister had to report to the international conference the result of the 50% cutbacks in funding for national parks, demonstrating our Government’s lack of concern for nature conservation. Without any signs to the contrary, we can only talk of the defeated ministerial action – giving credit to the Honourable Prestigiacomo for a commitment to this cause which is, however, completely ineffective at the time of publishing this magazine – and of a justifiably strong criticism of those who govern us.

BREAKING NEWS

by Marco Gustin, LIPU Species and Research

Two thirds of species are in danger

Disturbing – but predictable – the results of research carried out by LIPU into Italy’s breeding species. Three years of hard work with funding from the Ministry for the Environment to show the conservation status, the risks and the prospects for the future. And it has emerged that only 32% of species are not threatened with extinction in the next few decades.

Thanks to LIPU there is now a complete database available to the various institutions for the implementation of efficient conservation planning

Of the galliformes, only the pheasant is not at risk and yet nearly all the species can still be hunted.

We at LIPU now have the proof. We know the number of breeding species in Italy at risk. It took three years of hard work to obtain this important result as well as the analysis of thousands of scientific documents. Together with key concepts such as the Favourable Reference Value, the probability of short term or middle term survival of a species, these data have allowed us to describe the status of bird species breeding in our country. Conservation status is a concept used to understand the extent to which a species or a population of wild birds is at risk.
This work is unique both on a national (no other flora and fauna group has carried out such a detailed survey) and on an international level. The contribution from the Ministry of the Environment has made this important survey possible. No previous research had analysed the conservation status or at the same time ‘established’ a point of reference for the evaluation of the conservation status of an entire group of animals, such as birds, in a country or bio-geographical region.

Although conceived and carried out on a national scale, our method of research could be useful for bird conservation even on a local and regional scale, especially in the case of species with localised distribution or those that are exclusive only to one or few areas.

The research

Our research considered approximately 90 species of breeding birds in Annex I of the Bird Directive, i.e. the most important of our country’s bird species. We then analysed about 250 of the birds that live and breed in Italy.

So do what do these results reveal? A general analysis of the state of health of Italy’s birds reveals that 31% are at risk (critical conservation status), 33% are threatened (poor conservation status) and only 32% are not, apparently, risking extinction within the next few decades. This means that two thirds of Italy’s birds are at risk!

A quick glance at the table instantly reveals the seriousness of the situation. Some groups are more at risk than others. The galliformes are probably the most threatened: 70% of the species are in a critical position and only one, the pheasant, is not at risk. And yet, however absurd it may seem, the majority of these species (8 out of 10) can still be hunted in Italy. Therefore, to allow these species to survive in the long term, therefore, the politics of management and conservation must be reconsidered and at the same time the environmental factors responsible for the reduction in populations must be analysed (e.g. hunting, agricultural practices and recreational activities) to limit the damage.

Italy’s breeding ducks are also under threat; half are in a critical situation (Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, etc.) and another 30% are at risk (Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard etc.).

By limiting the analysis to the species included in Annex I of the Bird Directive, the situation appears more serious. This difference is most probably due to the fact that in Annex I of the Directive, the European Union has included the most threatened species and those with a poor conservation status even at the level of the single member States.

Of the 130 species of non-passeriformes considered, only 32 (25%) have a ‘good’ conservation status –the other 98 (75%) are at risk. Of the 14 species with a critical conservation status, 8 can still be hunted under national legislation; for some of these (e.g. Grey Partridge, Red-legged Partridge, Quail), profit making activities have certainly had a powerful negative impact, both directly (through killing and disturbance) and indirectly (through the release of individual birds belonging to similar or sub species, with consequent hybridisation, genetic pollution and ecological modifications in behaviour). It is likely that for many of these species drastic measures must to be taken in order to maintain viable populations; the negative effects of profit making activities must be taken into account and action taken accordingly

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N.B. – The table shows the state of health of the species by grouping them systematically. In general these systematic groups are: anseriformes (geese, ducks), galliformes (Pheasant, partridges), procellariiformes (Cory’s Shearwater), ciconiidae (egrets), phoenicopteriformes (Flamingo), falconiformes (diurnal birds of prey, golden eagle), gruiformes (Coot), charadriiformes (gulls, waders), columbiformes (pigeons), cuculiformes (Cuckoo), strigiformes (owls), caprimulgiformes (Nightjar), apodiformes (Swift), coraciformes (Hoopoe), piciformes (woodpeckers), passerines (sparrows, finches etc).

Investigative surveys could be improved with an increase in awareness of the status of certain species – such as the Stock Dove or the Great Crested Cuckoo; the lack of essential information for species such as these regarding demographic trends and breeding patterns, makes any real judgment on conservation status impossible.

The situation concerning raptors is serious. More than 40% (9 out of 21) of these species – all included in the Annex of the Bird Directive – are under threat: Short-toed Eagle, Red Kite, vultures such as the Lammergeier, Egyptian and Griffon and small raptors and trans-Saharan migrants like the Lesser Kestrel and Eleonora’s Falcon are all at risk.

Passeriformes make up the most numerous group with almost half the species analysed and the group with the largest number of species with an ‘unknown’ conservation status. Of the 116 species considered, 47 have a ‘good’ conservation status, 31 are under threat and 29 critical. Even in this case, as with the non-passeriformes, the general situation appears less worrying than it is for species in Annex I of the Bird Directive, even if the low level of knowledge regarding many of these species means that what we do know should be treated with caution. There is a particularly worrying lack of information regarding the 10 species with an ‘unknown’ conservation status: Wood Warbler, European Sparrow, Snowfinch, Citril Finch, Corsican Finch, Siskin, Rock Bunting, Black-headed Bunting, Spectacled Warbler and Hawfinch. More is known about birds such as the Crested Lark, Grey Wagtail, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, Savi’s Warbler, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, but here too, often fragmentary information does not allow for a complete view of the situation in the single bio-geographical regions.

Such a lack of information is all the more worrying if we consider that some of these lesser known species have a high percentage of their European, or even world, populations in Italy. This is the case with the Moltoni’s Warbler (previously a sub-species of Subalpine Warbler) of which Italy has about two thirds of the world’s population of the species. Or the Corsican Finch, of which we have at least a fifth of the world’s population. It is evident then, that Italy has an essential role to play in the conservation of these species and, at the same time, it must develop an efficient conservation strategy for those species that, for now, have a relatively good conservation status, so that threats can be avoided in the future.

Prospectives

What can be done to reverse this trend? The protection of habitat is crucial for the protection of all the bird species that live in our country. The excessive fragmentation or, in some cases, the destruction of natural environment conditions, threatens the destiny of the majority of the species in decline. Pollution is the first cause of mortality for species that live in agricultural areas, including steppes, which are important for many of the species in sharp decline, such as the Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle and various species of larks and shrikes. The destruction of the few remaining wetlands reduces the populations of breeding waterfowl. Only the woodland birds seem, for now, relatively safe, considering that neither the woodpeckers nor the nocturnal birds of prey – except for the Barn Owl – are at risk.
There are two fundamental steps to be taken. The first is to continue to monitor the situation, thus increasing the awareness of species for which the currently available information does not allow us to judge conservation status. The second is, obviously, that coherent and efficient action must be taken - before it is too late.

FROM THE WORLD OF LIPU

Edited by Andrea Mazza

A Special Day

LIPU Pedemontana Trevigiana, (near Vicenza, Veneto).

A hundred and fifty people attended the fourth Environment Day, organised on September 26 by the LIPU local branch of Pedemontana Trevigiana and the Pederobba local council. For this occasion hunting was suspended along the river Piave and around the villages of Pederobba, Valdobbiadene and Alano di Piave. Guides accompanied visitors on the nature trail to Garzaia di Pederobba Special Protection Area where a vegetarian food stall was filled with local produce and organic wine. There was also a LIPU stand and a children’s play area for the little ones.

The Big Summer

Palude Brabbia Nature Reserve - LIPU Oasis Cesano Maderno (in Lombardy).

The “Big Summer” project ended in Cossogno on September 12 with “Wings of Diversity”. This day of games, workshops and performances for 200 adults and children opened with the release of a buzzard following treatment at the LIPU hospital La Fagiana of Pontevecchio di Magenta. Funded by the Ministry of the Environment and promoted by LIPU and the Val Grande National Park, the project gave children between the ages of 7 and 14 a chance to explore the National Park, one of the largest wildernesses in Italy. Events were centred on Palude Brabbia Nature Reserve and the LIPU Oasis of Cesano Maderno. Over two weeks 105 children took part in trips, open-air games and activities, all revolving around fauna, flora and aquatic life.

Violent Poachers on Ischia (Bay of Naples).

Two LIPU Anti-Poaching Volunteers Attacked

The ambush at Comune di Barano d’Ischia started at 1.30 am, last October 8. Davide Zeccolella and Antonio Maresca, two LIPU anti-poaching volunteers, had confiscated an illegal audiotape decoy being used by poachers to attract quail. They were surrounded by five people on motor scooters who harassed them for the return of the decoy. A fight followed, the volunteers were kicked and punched and their rucksacks and personal belongings were taken. Not even satisfied with this, the two bleeding men were pursued to a nearby bar where they took refuge and were able to call in the police and an ambulance.

Five months after the murders in Genoa, this is another brutal attack. LIPU is pressing the local authorities and the police to take urgent measures.

LIPU Euro Birdwatch: Rare Species

Over 1300 Flamingoes, 23 Caspian Tern, 91 Spoonbill, Purple Gallinule and Ferruginous Duck. These were some of the species seen by LIPU staff and volunteers during Euro Birdwatch last October 2/3 in LIPU oases and reserves and other protected areas. Among the best areas for observing migration are three Sicilian wetlands (Saline di Priolo Nature Reserve, Vendicari Reserve and the Pantano Longarini Reserve). In the north we have Lake Varese (Lucca), the mouth of the river Serchio, and the LIPU Oasis of Torrile, near Parma.

Euro Birdwatch was organized in 34 European countries by BirdLife International partners. Sixty thousand people participated in some 1065 events. Over the two-day watch more than 2.7 million birds were observed through binoculars, with 27,000 in Italy. Among the highlights were White-winged Lark in Sweden, Pectoral Sandpiper in Hungary and Finland, Peregrine in Belorussia (where it is a rarity), Lammergeier in Armenia and Great Grey Shrike in the Ukraine where it is nationally red-listed.

Environmentalist Mayor Angelo Vassallo murdered

Victim of Organized Crime

“They have silenced the voice of a friend of the environment, a symbol of legality and good administration, a simple man who had great dignity.” This is how we would like to remember Angelo Vassallo, mayor of Pollica near Salerno in Campania, killed in an ambush while he was driving home in his car. Married with two children, he was recently re-elected. Known as the “fisher mayor” both because of his job and because of his fight for the environment, he had been awarded the “Blue Flag” for clean bathing water on multiple occasions. LIPU sends its condolences to the family, together with the hope that justice will be done.

Hunting Law

Bad News from the Veneto, Good News from Lombardy

“A theft of state property and from the international community”. This is how LIPU has described the approval of new hunting laws in the Veneto. Under these provisions thousands of hunters will be able to kill small birds such as Chaffinch, Brambling and Meadow Pipit, all protected species. Article 9 of the European Bird Directive does permit exceptions, but only in the most exceptional circumstances and then under strictly-regulated and carefully-monitored conditions. The consistent disregard of procedures by the Veneto has led to proceedings against Italy, which was found guilty by the European Court of Justice earlier this year. LIPU is pressing the Government to intervene and overturn this illegitimate law.

Good news instead from Lombardy. Lombardy too wanted to approve a new hunting law, however the proposal was dropped following reminders from LIPU to the region and to ministers that the Constitutional Court had ruled these laws illegitimate. This is a step forward in the long campaign to abolish class-C derogations, for which LIPU recently collected 200,000 signatures.

LIPU Hospitals - Hunting Starts and the Injured Arrive

Every hunting season, LIPU hospitals are kept busy helping wounded animals. This year too we have also taken care of lots of injured birds. A Kestrel shot in Milan, a Peregrine and a Honey Buzzard felled in Rome and a Little Egret in Florence. Again in Rome, a Kestrel and a Marsh Harrier were successfully treated at the LIPU centre, but a Peregrine and a Honey Buzzard did not survive. Another Kestrel handed in to the LIPU hospital “La Fagiana” near Milan, its body full of pellets, died a short time later. A Hobby and two Short-toed Eagles were also brought in, covered in shot. These had been injured at Rignano sull’Arno, one after the other, in the days before the hunting season opened. The first Short-toed Eagle was treated immediately in the LIPU Tuscany regional hospital. The second, found five days after being wounded, was in a very grave condition but was operated on successfully at Livorno. LIPU has denounced the lack of controls on illegal shooting and has asked the regional government, local councils and police to stop what has become a real emergency.

THE FORGOTTEN ANIMALS

Lipu’s autumn campaign

The forgotten are flying south, of interest to only a few as they are neither colourful nor on the way to extinction

They are the thrushes that have nested in the apple orchards around Trento expecting to find a safe haven – not the unscrupulous people who in a single surgical action take their nests and young. A razor blade is used to make an incision in the abdomen to determine the sex. The females are left to die on the ground while the males, treated with a bit of plaster, are put in cages to be sold illegally to become the decoys that will lure other birds to their deaths.

The survivors leave in October not knowing that their suffering is not over – that hundreds of hunters are loading their guns and waiting for them.

However, there are others who are working to save them. LIPU has established a camp at Cagliari, Sardinia, in the woods around Capoterra which, because of the abundant food supply, are full of birds in winter. The hunters, of whom there are hundreds in this part of Sardinia, take advantage of this by using snares in and underneath the trees.

This indiscriminate method has been outlawed since the end of the seventies but with few checks it still goes on illegally.

For this reason LIPU has set up camps since 2006. Traps and nets are destroyed and poachers reported. Supported by LIPU-UK, volunteers work to raise awareness in schools and through the media and even stage sit-in protests.

In a few years, the numbers of traps and nets has fallen and hunters are forced to abandon the areas near habitation and retreat further into the hills which saves the lives of many birds.

September 2010: The success of the camp to protect birds of prey on autumn migration.

There were two ‘mini’ camps in Calabria – each for three days. The volunteers, working with the police, were there to protect the birds of prey, especially Marsh Harriers which, en route to Africa, roost in the pine woods where poachers wait for them in the late afternoon, shooting as they fly under the trees. As well as carrying out the surveillance work a meeting was held in a local school to talk with the students about the importance of their area for migrating birds and the need to protect the woods.

Moreover a plan is now in place for the restoration and management of a part of the woodland confiscated from the ‘ndrangheta (the local Mafia).

In the same area there were night patrols against poachers who hunt Quail using tape recordings of their calls and, during the day, the fixed nets used to catch passerines (mostly Goldfinch) were destroyed.

Finally, in co-operation with the Carabinieri, two night time operations have been carried out against people poaching dormice in these magnificent woodlands in the Aspromonte National Park.

MILAN: BETWEEN AGRICULTURE AND BIODIVERSITY

Massimo Soldarini

Milan: capital of finance, of the economy, of communications, of fashion, of super exclusive residential villages, of night-time entertainment.

A city which brings together the best of Lombard talent in the fields of health and university teaching, of design and creativity.

Unexpectedly, Milan is also the capital of one of the biggest of Italian agricultural areas which, in part, lies within the only regional agricultural park of Lombardy, the Agricultural Park of South Milan. This is a special phenomenon which brings together, in an experiment which is perhaps unique in Europe, a desire for safeguarding and protecting the environment by the defence of economic activity in the shape of agriculture. The Park has been in existence as a protected area since 1983 and has enjoyed the status of Regional Park since 1990: it occupies about 1/3 of the territory of the Province of Milan, including 61 communes which embrace from the south the city of Milan and including a thousand or so active agricultural concerns. Castles, abbeys and meadow land bear the stamp of centuries of history and culture and record indelibly the profound changes which man has brought to the ancient alluvial forests over the last twenty centuries.

Agriculture has co-existed over the centuries in harmony with the city in a reciprocal arrangement which brought benefit to both worlds; the expressions “agriculture” and “environment” were substantially coincidental if not synonymous. However, from the post World War Two period onwards, something changed.

The advent of intensive farming with its mechanisation and use of chemicals has led to degradation in agriculture and the farming landscape and to a decrease in the biodiversity therein. There has been a breakdown, both social and economic, which has brought profound changes to rural farming society: families are migrating to the city in search of work, the land is being left uncultivated, soon to be replaced by new dormitory villages, and those who remain in the countryside are ever more vulnerable, confronted by the aggressiveness of the market and by the logic of large scale production. In this way, the primary sector of the economy, in effect farming, although helped in various ways by state and community subvention, seems to be in a profound state of ill-health.

It is so sick that today, we have the greatest difficulty in connecting “agriculture” with “nature” or in seeing this production process as the only one able to make a concrete contribution to the protection of biodiversity on our planet. Having reached this point, something has got to change, from the bottom up through small but significant experimental steps.

The South Milan Agricultural Park, an area full of contradictions, represents the best scenario for working out how to re-establish a new city-countryside relationship: through the project “Biodiversity, the key to the future of the Metropolitan area”, co-financed by the South Milan Agricultural Park itself and the Cariplo Foundation, we have worked over the last 18 months with farmers, townspeople and institutions to find a way of restoring faith in the potential which the agricultural environment can offer if correctly managed.

With the co-operation of the Park itself and the bigger associations representing the farmers, we have organised a series of meetings to publicise schemes of “good farming practices” friendly to both the environment and biodiversity. In addition, six hundred children accompanied by forty or so teachers have taken part in teaching activities aimed at bringing about an understanding of what the relationship between biodiversity and farming could be; hundreds of visitors have been able to help, “hands on”, with the environmental restoration works during guided visits.

A census of the ancient hedges, lines of trees as well as isolated ones in the Park has brought to light a treasure store of another 100 centenarian trees and, at the same time, has confirmed the worrying decline in hedges, a characteristic element of farming environments and one of fundamental importance to biodiversity. In the last 50 years, more than 500 km of hedges and lines of trees have been lost, half of the original amount and not much less than the distance between Rome and Milan with a further 10km disappearing every year.

This is a big project which has permitted us to spread, by means of concrete action, study and communication, the concept of the importance of the link biodiversity/agriculture and, vitally, that restoring it is possible.

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FOLLOWING ARIADNE'S THREAD

From Vittorio Giacoia of the Gravina di Laterza Oasis

Sirio, Teo and Brandy are the names of the latest Egyptian Vultures to be released this summer, after a time of “hacking” at the Gravina di Laterza Oasis in Taranto Province, a part of the Terra delle Gravine Regional Park. The project, led by LIPU and Cerm (Centro Rapaci Minacciati, the centre for endangered raptors) of Rocchette di Fazio, under the directorship of Guido Ceccolini, was financed by the Environmental Assessor and the protected areas of Taranto province.

Sirio and Teo were bred at Cerm, while Brandy was raised in the zoo of Jerez de la Frontera in Spain and transferred to the Oasis when 60 days old. Following “Ariadne’s thread” (Ariadne is a female Egyptian Vulture equipped with a tracking device who, having left in 2006, came back to us after four years in Africa), Sirio, Teo and Brandy too, after a period of acclimatisation, have begun their own migration. Sirio, the biggest of the three, left soon after his release at the age of 90 days, we have no information on him as he does not have a transmitter.

As for Teo, we know that he arrived in Sicily and that he started his crossing of the Mediterranean, but then the signals stopped. Brandy, however, stayed for some time at the Oasis, leaving only on September 12th. We have had clear signals from him that show that his passage to Africa was swift and purposeful, arriving in Niger after barely ten days, a distance of over 2500 kilometres. We can but hope that he too returns to us, perhaps with a partner, and that they will set up as a regular breeding pair. This indeed is the objective of the releases which have been proceeding since 2004 at Gravina di Laterza. With the experience gained, it had been possible to establish a methodology for the release of young Egyptian Vultures, one which has been included in the action plan for Egyptian Vultures of the Environment Ministry and ISPRA (Institute for Environmental Protection and Research). We know the routes they take, the countries they traverse and the critical points of their journey; these are precious data which, on the one hand, can be used in order to support them, as for example by having feeding stations at their resting points, and on the other to influence public bodies when taking decisions which could affect them, as in the granting of permission for the construction of wind farms.

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THE LITTLE ALBATROSS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

From Jacopo Cecere, LIPU Department of Nature Conservation

BirdLife and the IUCN agree in identifying marine and pelagic birds as those in the greatest danger of extinction. There are a number of causes, but most notable are the effects of over-fishing by man, fishing methods which can accidentally kill hundreds of birds at a time and the presence of alien species in their colonies such as rats and cats which prey on their eggs and their young. For this reason, BirdLife has encouraged its partners worldwide
to undertake conservation projects capable of identifying the main feeding grounds of the birds and to seek to limit the effects of the most damaging threats as soon as possible.

Starting in 2008, LIPU, with the assistance for the first year of the Environment Ministry, and thereafter of LIPU-UK, has undertaken an ambitious project, concentrating chiefly on the Cory’s Shearwater, the “Little Albatross” of the Mediterranean. Miniature GPS transmitters have been used for the study, capable of tracking the birds throughout their travels. Thanks to this new technology, we can now follow the shearwaters on their feeding trips which during the breeding season can last as long as ten days. We have thus discovered that those nesting on Linosa head towards the coasts of Libya and Tunisia on their journeys to feed, getting there in little more than a day, staying for a few days before returning to feed their young and to free their partners to make the journey. Those of Tremiti fly north for the coasts of Emilia and the Marche, while those of the Tuscan islands have the waters off Liguria as their feeding grounds. Thanks to this data we now know the areas most used by Cory’s Shearwaters in feeding themselves and their young, information fundamental to conserving the Italian population. The challenge now is to have protection given to the foraging areas as well as the areas where the birds breed.

LIPU VOLUNTEERS REMOVE 800 TRAPS IN THE POGGIO DEI PINI, NEAR THE TOWN OF CAPOTERRA (CA).

Snares and traps disabled in Gutturu Mannu

A long mountain trail scattered with 800 illegal snap traps to catch wild birds has been cleared by the volunteers participating in the LIPU anti-poaching camp in the province of Cagliari.

The area is at Poggio dei Pini, in the municipality of Capoterra (CA) where climatic conditions and the availability of food make it attractive to migratory birds. The traps were placed on a horizontal branch on which the birds will readily perch, when they see the red berries put there by the poachers they try to feed but are caught in a noose made of horse hair. The bird remains suspended for hours and the long agony is only ended with the arrival of the poacher.

“It’s difficult to understand the terror that the birds suffer when they hear a human being approaching” says Giovanni Malara, head of the LIPU field workers.

Although the traps were recently cleared by the poacher, the volunteers have found three song thrushes, two of which were still alive and were immediately released.

The “owner” of the path – says LIPU – was already known and was reported to the judicial authorities after being recorded by a camera placed by volunteers on January 3 last year when he was seen taking a thrush from a trap.

With the drop in temperatures in recent days, LIPU says a ruthless campaign of illegal poaching has started, running until the Christmas period to meet the demand of Grive “(from the French name for thrush, the species most affected ), a skewer of eight birds that will be cooked and served in local restaurants. A macabre ritual that will cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of wild birds, protected species or not, which are caught in snares of horsehair or nylon, or trapped in invisible mist nets.

During the ongoing operations of LIPU volunteers, they have also disabled in the ‘protected area’ of Gutturu Mannu sixteen snares to catch wild boar, four for Sardinian deer and hundreds of traps for birds.

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GOOD NEWS: THE HUNTING SEASON HAS BEEN SUSPENDED IN CALABRIA.

In future, particular species must be removed from the hunting list. The hunting season will be restricted to October, November and December.

Last June, a modification to law 157/92 was passed, at the request of Europe, requiring States and Regions to protect species with an unfavourable conservation status and to forbid hunting in any circumstances during the breeding and migration periods. The following day, Animalisti Italiani, ENPA, LAV, LIPU and WWF Italia submitted a detailed document to Calabria and to the other Italian regions, in which they laid out the steps needed to plan a proper hunting calendar. Furthermore, in their press statements of the time, they warned of the risk that the hunting season could be abruptly suspended if the regions defaulted on their new obligations to protect fauna. This was followed by the launch of the ISPRA Guide, produced by the national scientific authority in this field, with recommendations for planning hunting calendars species by species.
Unfortunately, Calabria ignored all of this: the new national law; their regional obligations; the reasoned requests of the associations; and above all the official scientific advice. Their irresponsible and irresponsive attitude left the five associations with little choice and they applied to the Second Section of the Calabrian TAR (Tribunal for Regional Affairs) for a ruling. The TAR upheld their plea and cancelled the hunting season with immediate effect. The hunting season is now suspended until next April.

At this stage Calabria can but comply with the ruling, letting hunters know that the season is over. Further, it should also be prepared to remove several species from future hunting calendars and limit the season from October to December.

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A GOVERNMENT SURVEY ON HUNTING: THE ITALIANS ARE AGAINST, BUT WHAT DO THE POLITICIANS SAY?

80% is for abolition or a stricter regulation of hunting activity.

82% is for stopping the hunting of migratory birds.

Italy does not love hunting, it asks to abolish or reduce it and demands more security in respect of the risks from double-barrelled shotguns. These matters can no longer be ignored

It underlines the LIPU-BirdLife Italy opinion poll on hunting carried out by Ipsos for the Minister of Tourism, Michela Vittoria Brambilla.

The Ipsos survey, supported by LIPU, fully confirmed and reinforced, the image of a country that does not like hunting activity, considers it unnecessarily cruel and would like to severely limit or even – in the opinion of a high percentage – abolish it completely.

Here are a few highlights taken from the survey’s considerable and relevant data: 73% of Italians asked to restrict the hunting season to the months of October to December; 82% asked for a ban on the hunting of migratory birds; 78% wanted the number of non-huntable species to be increased.

Unequivocal data, in part already revealed by recent authoritative research, is shown with even greater force by the Ipsos-Ministry of Tourism survey because paradoxically, it has been exacerbated by the attempts of the extremist hunters to expand the extent of Italian hunting,

The days when hunting was a means of livelihood or a means to preserve a traditional business are gone says LIPU; today, the majority of Italians consider hunting divorced from reality and far from the widespread recognition of the natural world as a place of peace and serenity and wild animals as sentient creatures worthy of respect.

But there are other data on which to reflect regarding the serious problem of security: 74% of Italians ask that hunting be forbidden on Sunday and public holidays; 80% fear excursions, walking etc, during the hunting season; 85% want to increase the distances of shooting from oasi and pathways, 87% do not want hunting licences granted to those under 21 and over 70 years.

Finally, LIPU stresses the statistic that 80% of Italians wish to stop the free entry of hunters on to private land, currently allowed by Article 842 of the Civil code. This deals with a heavy precept that gives, on one side, a guarantee of the so-called ‘social hunting’ and ‘management’ and on the other seriously penalises those who live in the countryside.

LIPU argues that these questions can no longer be ignored and politicians at national and regional levels must give coherent answers to them instead of continuing to bow to the pressures of the small hunting lobby which infringes EU regulations regarding protection and derogations.

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My thanks go to our translators: Jo Bazen, Juliet Cobley, Carol Debney, Tony Harris, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty and John Walder. Line drawings are used by courtesy of the RSPB and EU, photographs © David Lingard

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