Ali Notizie - The English Digest - June 2004

Editorial June 2004

A well co-ordinated conservation project

This year has seen a break with tradition while still keeping the pressure on the poachers at the Straits of Messina.

In an imaginative and carefully co-ordinated scheme LIPU has extended its knowledge, influence and effectiveness in the struggle against the illegal killing of migrating raptors. The plan was to learn more about the migrants, their stop over sites, migration routes and so on in order to be able to predict their movements and improve the timely deployment of the Forest Guards.

Observers were stationed in six places to study the migration and pass the results by text message to Giovanni Malara on the Calabrian side of the Strait as follows:

Messina Strait (Calabrian side) where the usual anti poaching activities took place.

Messina Strait (Sicily side) where Carmela Cardelli collected data on the migration and also looked to the roosting sites.

The south coast of Sicily in the provinces of Trapani and Agrigento (Marco Scalisi).

Marettimo, one of the islands to the west of Trapani on the west coast.

Panarea, one of the Aeolian islands to the north east of Sicily.

Pantelleria was surveyed by Andrea Corso.

In addition Giorgio Paesani spent a week at Cap Bon in Tunisia to co-ordinate the counting of raptors there.

The results were impressive with a steady flow of information to Giovanni Malara, in particular the information coming in from Pantelleria and the Sicilian side of the strait allowed him to alert the guards. That there is still a need for this work was shown as there were a number of arrests and some people are now using silenced rifles.

Analysis of the data will continue through the year but, of course, this is just a single year and it is intended to collect more data in coming years.

An idea of the importance of this migration route to birds of prey can be seen from the numbers of raptors counted:

As in previous years LIPU-UK played a major part in funding this work; this year our friends in AISPA adopted the whole of this project and supported it as one of our major projects - thank you AISPA.

Conservation News from Italy

From the President of LIPU

Giuliano Tallone

A Window on the East

LIPU has always been proud of its independence from political alignments, but now...

I recall a passionate National Assembly in 1985 (to think that is nearly twenty years ago now), when the choice lay as to whether to support openly the Green Alliance, then starting out in our country. The decision was to stay outside and retain the society's distinctive interests and activities as separate from purely political activism, even if the co-operation with what became the Green Party as well as other political groupings was, and remains, intense.

The protection of birds involves bringing reserves and parks into being, as well as planning for the welfare of individual species, which inevitably brings us into contact with the existing political and public bodies that can bring about the decisions which contribute to our shared heritage.

Our strong links with other national bird protection associations of the time, and later BirdLife International, of which we were co-founders and are now the Italian partners, means we are taking an acute interest in the current European elections, attempting with other political forces to align their strategies according to Nature Network 2000, with regard to agriculture, which takes up two thirds of EU funding, to financing of infrastructure, to hunting, transport and many other issues.

A central issue is that of the eastward expansion of the EU, where are found many of the natural treasures of the continent. LIPU, along with BirdLife and the RSPB, and following talks with all levels and colours of our political organisations, has produced a set of proposals which has been circulated to all parties and candidates, which put forward and illustrate the issues by which, even in the European Parliament, the birds, which cannot speak for themselves, and which are in great need now and into the future, may be represented.

* * * *

BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL IS 10 YEARS OLD

Ten years of science, lobbying, action and passion. A review of the first ten years of the world's largest network for nature conservation and a look into its future.

by Marco Lambertini

Migratory birds represent for me one of the most powerful marvels of nature and also the best way of drawing attention to BirdLife International, the world federation of organisations for the protection of birds and nature. Founded in 1922 as the International Council for Bird Preservation, this network of bird lovers and expert ornithologists was consolidated in 1994 into a true federation of national, independent associations spread throughout the world, each one with its own members and programme, but all united in the struggle to save the world's birds and nature. And migratory birds are the most obvious reason for working together to protect these species throughout their range, from the nesting areas to wintering areas and along their migration routes. No one national association could guarantee the effective protection of these species through one action. So to reverse the decline of swallows, the European associations of BirdLife work to improve the laws regulating agriculture, whilst their respective colleagues in Africa do their best to protect the great savannahs and forests where swallows fly to spend the winter.

There is also another important reason for supporting the idea of a world federation for the conservation of nature. The globalisation of the economy has increased even more the "distance impact" on natural environments where financial and political decisions taken by the "rich world" often have a great impact on nature in developing countries. And BirdLife uses its global network in order to capitalise on the positive effects of globalisation and to hinder the negative ones. So we use international agreements to obtain better regulations and laws for the protection of nature; and we use our network to exert pressure at national and international levels at the same time. This happened with the Mindo oil pipeline in Ecuador, where the concerted pressure of the BirdLife associations in Ecuador, Germany, Canada and Italy persuaded the construction consortium made up of firms from those countries to implement techniques that greatly limited the impact on the forest crossed by the oil pipeline.

The growth of the network

Managing and leading organisations for the conservation of nature is not an easy task and co-ordinating a network of a hundred associations is even less so. It is a mixture of professionalism and passion, depending on the support of the personnel, as people feel the economic and political fluctuations that increasingly characterise the modern world.

A great source of pride is the unique character of BirdLife and that it is very strongly represented in the network of organisations in economically developing countries. These are the countries where very often the most biodiversity is concentrated, above all in the equatorial belt of the planet. So one of the main aims of BirdLife is to try to sustain the growth in developing countries of those emerging associations, which are often young and lacking resources. In the last 5 years almost 30 million dollars have been distributed to support projects and the development of institutions in these associations.

In the last four years the budget of BirdLife has increased by another 70 million dollars, demonstrating a strengthening in the individual associations and an increase in conservation programmes, with many new projects. But there always remain so many things to do and many more resources are needed.

The IBA Programme

Perhaps the most important is the conservation programme. We have to take into consideration that we can only think of protecting birds if we protect the areas where these species live: nesting areas, wintering areas and resting places during migration. These are areas of international importance, in other words ones that contain global species threatened with extinction; endemic species (that is, which live only in very restricted and therefore vulnerable areas); great concentrations of birds for nesting, overwintering or migration; and finally areas representing particular environments. BirdLife is achieving the identification of IBAs at world level. Inventories have been completed for Europe (3,600 sites), Africa (2,400), Asia (3,000), the Middle East (350), and are being completed for the Americas, the Pacific and the Antarctic. Something like 15,000 areas of international importance for birds throughout the world are being evaluated. The inventories are not limited to defining the confines and the ornithological value of each site. They also identify the protection status, the threats and the actions necessary for their protection. These analyses represent a very important instrument for being able to develop protective action later on.

In fact the identification of sites is only the first phase of the programme. The BirdLife organisations manage projects in the field for the conservation of these sites. All areas are different and need a specific approach, such as the creation of an area of official protection; participatory management of the area in agreement with the local community; the acquisition of land; management plans; the development of ecotourism etc.

The Murici forest on the Atlantic coast of Brazil (which contains 9 species of birds globally threatened with extinction!) has been declared, with the encouragement of BirdLife, an Ecological Reserve of the Brazilian Government, whilst in the forest of the Bamenda mountains in Cameroon, BirdLife has facilitated the development of agreements about sustainable use of the forest products between the government and the village leaders of the community living on the forest margins. The majority of IBAs in Europe are today recognised as areas deserving special protection within the Bird and Habitat Directive of the European Union. A great success after years of patient and tenacious lobbying on the part of the European associations of BirdLife.

And the next ten years?

The next ten years will be dominated by the latest losses of nature, new species will become extinct, many natural environments will be destroyed. Because of this it is absolutely essential that the environmental associations, and also BirdLife and its national partners, should do everything possible to minimise these losses. The support of the members and the public will be decisive. But it is even more important to continue to involve people and to put pressure on governments to obtain whatever radical changes are necessary to guarantee the quality of life on our planet for everyone, human or not. The crisis in oil reserves will necessitate a rapid move to alternative renewable sources of energy, with drastic reductions in pollution; the local and global climate change and the water crisis will increase the emphasis on the protection of forests and wetlands. Therefore the time will soon come for a radical political and cultural change on the global level, and our conservationists must be ready to offer solutions, to uphold just decisions and to fight against whatever has gone wrong. This is our real, never-changing role, but in the next twenty or thirty years the stakes will be even higher: a real epoch-making and generational change. From the generation and the era of pollution and the rape of natural resources, from the unawareness of ecological balance and the value of nature, to a new era where the conservation of nature will become a social and economic necessity, where the environmental value of a forest will be evaluated and, why not, quoted on the stock exchange.

Dreams? I don't think so. And anyway dreams have always been the greatest vehicles for change. Unwillingness to change course leads to a facile pessimism. We are still those who wish to change the world… and we will change it with your support!

LIPU AT THE WORLD CONVENTION OF BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL

An Experience which Enlarges Horizons.

by Claudio Celada and Elena D'Andrea

"In the frantic weeks which preceded the third World Convention of BirdLife, I sought to imagine what it would mean to meet people from all over the world, passionately concerned with conservation, and what would be the benefits of the experience. I have returned from Durban with many answers, and a renewed sense of belonging to a great family", says Elena. "There is something that the nearly 100 partners of BirdLife have in common: it is the search for new solutions, so that birds and people can coexist. "In this sense, the title of the meeting, "empowering people for change" could not be more apt" agrees Claudio. "The choice of South Africa has highly significant symbolism" continues Elena, "the Rainbow Nation, which is strenuously seeking for a peaceful coexistence of diverse ethnic groups." And further, "the continent of Africa and its numerous success stories, (more than elsewhere) in the field of nature conservation. We have been struck by the brightness and creativity of Asiatic partners, by the great pride of the Africans, but also (a jarring note) by the almost total absence of the French-speaking countries. From the Pacific partners we have learnt that no country is immune from ecological problems, and from the Middle East a great wish to collaborate with us, and a sense of hope, even from those who to carry on their daily activities have to spend hours at boundary checkpoints. From the South Americans we have learnt how significant positive projects can be (for example the acquisition of hundreds of hectares of Atlantic forest, and we have learnt the powerful attraction of Latin music in socialising. From the "historic" associations we have understood the meaning of duties towards less fortunate countries, where a large part of biodiversity resides. We return home with a great desire to be doing, to enlarge our horizons, to work disregarding our limits, as the birds do. This is the most profound significance of BirdLife International, this (and much else) we have gathered from Durban."

The World Assembly of BirdLife International in South Africa

The organisations of BirdLife met at Durban, South Africa, for their third World Assembly from 7th to 13th March 2004. An important moment to reflect on these first ten years, celebrate successes, get organised for the next challenges. Programmes of IBA were discussed; the value of birds as environmental indicators; campaigns for the protection of forests, of seas and agricultural environments; birding tourism. The last three days were given to discussion among the partners of BirdLife to define the strategy and programmes for the next ten years. Action for species, the protection of IBA, lobbying on grand themes such as agriculture, forests, water and climate change; and then the great programme for people, that is to demonstrate that nature conservation can bring material benefits for marginalised and impoverished local populations.

Facts and Figures on BirdLife.

It is the largest international network for nature conservation, formed of 100 national organisations. About half these associations are in tropical countries

* * * * *

BIRDWATCHING

Sea, Beaches and Marine Cliffs

by Marco Gustin.

The sandy shore and the rocky coast - borders ever the same and ever shifting between the liquid world of the sea and the solid land - are among the richest in animal biodiversity of our planet. In fact the beaches or the cliffs are the last remaining strips of land before the sea overcomes risen dry land, hence, a world always in equilibrium where animal life of two so different worlds meets and mingles. At least 15 species of those birds breeding in our country are strictly bound in the reproductive season to a beach or cliff. In the last 50 years the coasts of the Mediterranean, especially the sandy ones, have become the parts of land most damaged by the pressure of human activity. The enormous development of the tourist industry has obliterated these ecosystems, giving place to sterile artificially-created sands. The results of these thoughtless developments have been dramatic: it is estimated that only 10% of Italian coasts may now be considered intact and preserved. Certainly the cliffs, which by their nature are more difficult to colonise, have been less stricken by human activity. The avifauna, however, which lives and reproduces on the cliffs, remains very vulnerable. The main causes are disturbance by shipping in the breeding season, or the concentration in the sea, near to breeding colonies, of harmful or toxic substances, such as heavy metals, which may prejudice whole colonies of marine species (Shag, Audouin's Gull, Cory's Shearwater). These colonies can also be threatened by the accidental or voluntary introduction of terrestrial mammals, such as dogs, cats and rats, which prey on eggs or chicks. General human disturbance, continual erosion of breeding habitat, the incursion of new grazing-land on beaches subject to erosion, can contribute to a substantial reduction of species which use the beaches as breeding sites, such as Kentish Plover and Little Tern.

Where to go

In Italy impressive cliffs are present, above all in Sardinia. (San Pietro, LIPU Carloforte Reserve, Capo Caccia. Gulf of Orosei), Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands), Egadi, Pontine and in Sicily. Further, in mainland Italy other important cliffs can be seen at Duino (sentiero Rilke), the del Conero promontory, on the Gargano and in the Parco Nazionale del Cilento.

Residual strips of sandy coast can also be observed in Sardinia, Tuscany (Maremma) Sicily (Vendicari), in Basilicata and Calabria (Ionian coast), the Po Delta and the lagoon of Venice (Oasi LIPU di Ca' Roman)

When to go

The best periods for visiting the cliffs or sand dunes are in the spring months (April - May), or autumn (September - October) during the intense flowering of the Mediterranean maquis or scrubland.

CELESTINA'S GIFT

by Luca Bagni and Ugo Faralli

"I bequeath to LIPU the Reattino farm situated on the Via Reggiolo at Campagnola Emilia in order that it may be converted into a wetland park similar to the one at Torrile."

So wrote Maria Celestina Freddi in her Will.

We duly notified the local authorities, and thanks to the kind co-operation of the Campagnola Emilia Council, the Parmigiana Moglia Land Reclamation Consortium and, later, that of the Reggio Emilia provincial authorities, the autumn of 2001 saw the beginning of the work to restore the land to a more natural state. For us, this meant a wet zone serving as a home for birds, dragonflies, frogs, butterflies and fish; for the Consortium and the local bodies it was an enterprise of public utility, nearby canals being known to cause flooding from time to time. This was going to be a good balance between Man and Nature.

Excavators have been beavering away across an uncultivated field, creating water-storage facilities, islets, channels and footpaths, and it's easy to see that nature is regaining a hold. As with our successful work at Torrile, Crava Morozzo, Volta Scirocco and Montepulciano, nature has been given a helping hand. We have started our programme of planned planting, and are grateful to LIPU volunteers and to schools in Campagnola who have offered their services. Another idea was to propose to the Province of Reggio Emilia the creation of woodland in this low-lying area, and thanks to Regional funding, there is the prospect, this autumn, of seeing over a thousand trees planted: willow, alder, poplar, ash, maple, oak, privet and blood-orange trees.

Work is progressing apace. The Consortium will be completing its task to bring in water by the end of the summer; the Campagnola Council is to be thanked for enabling us to erect a prefabricated Visitor Centre as well as realizing the construction of walkways that may be used by the disabled. An observation hide and information boards are also to be in place. But all this is just the beginning: in time, we intend to make this an even more interesting and stimulating place, both for visitors and wildlife. You see, the fauna, birds in particular, have already begun to show their appreciation of what we are attempting here: last year, we were mightily encouraged to see three pairs of Black-Winged Stilt nesting here.

A Museum and a Bio-tunnel

There is still a lot of unfinished work to do on the Reserve, yet we are already thinking of new things to do. Two ideas that are being actively considered are projects that will represent what the Reserve stands for, expressions of our belief that Nature can be defended, yet at the same time be made accessible to all.

The first big project is to restore the spacious farmhouse. This also belongs to LIPU. The plan is to have it carefully restored to its former glory and to use it as a museum, with the addition of guest-rooms and a conference hall. In this way, the hope is that the local populace as well as visitors from further afield will become more involved. The bio-tunnel project will tackle the construction of special tunnels under the adjacent road for the use of small animals. The practicality of the project is obvious if we consider that the Celestina Reserve is rather like an oasis in the desert, surrounded as it is by farmland with very few trees or other vegetation. The Reserve would thus become a refuge, which animals could enter or leave without danger. We are carrying on and will continue to do so, and we trust that Maria Celestina Freddi will be happy to look down and see that her gesture of love for LIPU and Nature has indeed borne fruit.

100,000 TIMES NO! - TO UNCONTROLLED HUNTING

The Campaign to save law 157 goes on: thousands have already signed

by Danilo Selvaggi

The struggle continues without let up over law 157 of 1992, which established the rules governing the protection of wild life and the controls relating to hunting in Italy. As is well known, it is now almost a year and a half since this historic piece of environmental legislation in Italy has been subjected to a series of ferocious attacks attempting to distort both its text and its intent. The aim of these attacks is to go back to things which our experience, our culture and our science have all renounced: hunting in spring, the increase of game species, the demise of any legal infringements for hunters, hunting in the national parks and so on… It is an unfortunate truth that these attacks originate directly from Parliament, from the Commission for Agriculture and from the Chamber of Deputies and from other organs of that same Government (as, for example, The Ministry of Agricultural Policy).

To get to the bottom of it let us quickly reconstruct the course of recent events: in December 2002, the Agricultural Commission opens discussions on 11 proposals for amendment of the law on hunting. The business appears immediately ridiculous given the risk (as indeed happened) of a new public conflict between environmentalists, farmers and hunters. What is more, a very serious point, the discussion begins in the absence of any report (as is required by law) on the working of law 157.

A simple question: is it possible to amend a law if we do not know how it works? The answer is an obvious no. However, in the face of widespread protests, the discussion goes forward. There follows a commission of enquiry on these new amendments: the members of the Commission for Agriculture call environmentalists, farmers, scientists, the State Forestry Commission, INFS, hunters, and ministers. The result is clear, 90% of the witnesses give evidence against the proposals: law 157 is to be enacted and certainly not amended. Even a good part of the hunting world expresses itself in favour of this. For his part, the Minister, La Loggia, underlines the risk of a clash between these amendments and the European regulations. Everything settled? Sadly, no! The Commission marches on, blithely ignoring all of this, and draws up a text that draws together the various amendments. To complete the picture the Alemanno Bill finally arrives confirming the strangulation of law 157 by simply superimposing itself on the aforementioned amendments. For shame! And we haven't even mentioned the reconvening of the National Committee for Hunting and Wildlife (the technical body dealing with hunting) from which, would you believe it, all environmentalists are excluded.

To sum up, what with the embarrassment of the Government, the Alemanno Bill is withdrawn but the amendments go forward, thus provoking the furious opposition of environmentalists, farmers and some of the hunting lobby. Let us all together put a stop to these amendments and let us defend law 157! LIPU has put under way a great popular petition that, as I write, has around 50,000 signatures and is also writing repeatedly to the European Union. In the coming weeks, which will be decisive, our battle must continue according to law but with determination. We will not accept a prehistoric and obscurantist law. We want wild animals to enjoy serious protection and our society, respectful towards the natural world, to avoid taking the fatal leap backwards which the unthinkable victory of hunting will inevitably be.

THE MOON IN BASILICATA

The characteristic landscape that so inspired Carlo Levi is now recognised as an Important Area for birds. Its special features are hilly areas lying alongside the flat plain, the underlying strata being of clays, sands and chalks. The extreme summer heat dries out the topmost layers and then torrential rains create rifts that gradually deepen until cracks are deep enough to allow landslides to occur. It is these particular characteristics that result in its unusual visual impact. The deep furrows are separated by low ridges and the resulting pattern brings to mind an almost magic and surreal lunar landscape.

Here there is silence and an impression of almost infinite space, a silence though, that in late spring, is broken by the song of Black-headed Buntings, lords of the macchia, the typical Mediterranean vegetation that becomes established as the surface stabilises. This is the main area in Italy for the bright yellow Black-headed Buntings and is in fact the most westerly limb of its distribution through the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. But it is not only the Bunting that brightens up this arid landscape, there are also Rollers, Bee-eaters and Black-eared Wheatears, which, with the agile and rare Lanner, bring this lunar region to life.

At present this whole area is considered as being rather lacking in interest. The only real human activity is some scattered agriculture, which is very laborious and not very profitable. Farming methods are still very traditional and result in low environmental impact and biological conservation. There is now a growing interest in such areas from a certain section of the tourist industry and a network of small holiday accommodations is becoming established. It will become an alternative to the mass tourism that is ruining vast stretches of coastline.

A LAKE IN KENYA

by Nadia Faloppa

Nakaru is amongst the most important lakes in Kenya. It is within the Rift Valley national park, about 150 km from Nairobi. Its waters are rich in plankton and fish and are used by hundreds of thousands of Flamingos, Pelicans and various species of gulls, ducks and herons. It is a magnificent spectacle for any birdwatcher at any season. In winter the Swallows, Bee-eaters, Black-winged Stilts and many species of waders that visit Europe in summer can be observed in their African environment.

As well as the lake there are forests, inhabited by numerous species of colourful birds and mammals. On the grasslands there are Rothschild's giraffe, introduced 20 years ago, white and black rhinoceros as well as antelope, zebra and similar species.

NatureKenya is the official partner of BirdLife International in Kenya. It was founded in 1909 and is the oldest scientific organisation in Africa. Its aim is the conservation of biodiversity in Africa, with the co-ordination of local IBA and the study of endemic birdlife and the effects of deforestation. BirdLife Africa is in Nairobi and they co-ordinate 18 national African organisations in the protection of 2300 species of birds throughout the continent.

WORLD BRIEFS

The New EU

May 1st 2004 is an historic date, when ten new countries joined our western lands in the EU. Many have some of the greatest biodiversity still left in Europe, rich in habitats healthy and alive with different species, some however reduced to their last gasp like those in the west. A major new front opens up therefore: does Europe know how to safeguard the treasures of the East, or will it destroy them as in so many parts of the west, through blunderbuss agricultural subsidies, and misguided support for big construction projects? (LIPU)

Threatened birds of the world

An eighth of the world's birds (1211 species in total) are threatened with extinction. More than 7500 sites in 170 countries have been identified as IBAs. The expansion and the intensification of agriculture threatens 50% of the most important in Africa, and 65% of the birds in danger, mainly in the tropics, are at risk through the unsustainable exploitation of the forests. (Reuters)

Treaty for the Albatross

The British Government and three of its territories in the southern oceans have signed the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, aimed at protecting the Albatross from the impact of long-line fishing, which kills 300,000 seabirds a year. There is now also pressure to get Tristan da Cunha to sign the accord, as it has a key role in the fate of 9000 Albatross. (RSPB)

Co-operation between Israel, Jordan and Palestine

The Jordan valley is one of the most heavily-used natural aerial corridors and avital stopover for migrants that depend utterly on it to reach their breeding grounds. In February 30,000 cranes gathered there in the wetlands of the Hula marshes in Israel. In the spectacular passage of migrants the V-formations of White Storks can be distinguished, and flocks of Bee-eaters and raptors such as Egyptian Vulture and Bonelli's Eagle. Then too there are those that stop to refuel in the saltmarshes and ponds. BirdLife therefore has set up an audacious project involving the collaboration of the naturalist associations of the three countries, which have risen above regional political divides and worked together to involve local agriculture in working the land in such a way as to be migrant-friendly, with monitoring of the local IBAs and the development of nature tourism. With co-operation like this between warring nations, the ecologists have a lesson for their leaders. (La Stampa)

EU block on the Messina bridge.

The EU Parliament has blocked the grandiose project for a bridge across the Strait of Messina. This, in LIPU's view, would have a dire and insufficiently assessed environmental impact - this even without taking into account the presence on the Straits of 11 sites of community importance and two zones of special protection. Nor have the studies undertaken so far taken note of the importance of the Straits for raptor and other migration, with tens of thousands passing often at low level and in adverse weather conditions, and for which such a bridge would be an insurmountable obstacle.

WORK IN HAND

DOWN ON THE FARM

Throughout its history, the agrarian countryside has never known anything other than continuous evolution. These environmental changes which are going on at the present time may be lumped into two tendencies, apparently contradictory but which stem from the same imperative for the rationalisation of the means of production and the increase in yields. On the one hand we are seeing the withdrawal of agro-forestal-pastoral activities from the marginal areas (the most isolated hill and mountain zones) and, on the other, in the more intensively cultivated areas, traditional agricultural practices are being replaced by monocultures.

A strategy which makes it possible to turn back the process of the impoverishment of rural habitats can show the way through small-scale interventions available to all those who are involved in whatever way of interacting with the agrarian countryside and of changing it. The new practical handbook, published by LIPU's regional office in Tuscany with the help of the Region of Tuscany is dedicated to them. This small tome may be acquired from the LIPU Shop at the price of €5 plus postage.

Rice fields in danger

Rice fields represent an extremely important alternative wetland habitat to a high percentage of the European population of colonial herons (Night Heron, Grey Heron and Little Egret). The reform of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) puts the future of this form of agriculture at risk. With this in mind, LIPU together with other bodies has proposed to the Region of Piedmont a research project. This is designed to set up a "green" quality brand for rice fields run in an eco-friendly sustainable way to allow the rice growers to face up successfully to the CAP reform and the growing competition from the countries of Asia.

New Censuses

Within the last few months new censuses and studies of birds in a number of cities have been set up and co-ordinated by our Urban Ecology Section.

In Aosta, a census is under way studying the population of city pigeons linked to a census of the crow population. The research is financed by the Commune of Aosta.

In San Miniato (Pisa province) we are also working on a census of the pigeon population. This research is supported financially by the Commune of San Miniato.

In the neighbourhoods of the Airports of Verona, Villafranca and Brescia Montichiari a census is currently underway of bird populations in accordance with the rules of ENAC. The study will try to distinguish the various groups of species and will end with pointers to the most appropriate management action plan following an ecological, integrated and bloodless approach. The Society of Garda Airports is financing the research.

White Stork project

This project, organised by LIPU Rende in collaboration with ENEL (Electricity) and local communities, encourages breeding opportunities for this important species in the Crati valley. After the success obtained at one site, where a pylon was made safe for a breeding pair, a second one has now been isolated. LIPU volunteers have been on constant watch to discourage poaching and disturbance at the nest site, and have initiated an information campaign amongst the local population.

THE LIPU INTERVIEW

From Astro-Physics to a love of Nature

MARGHERITA HACK is a very special member of LIPU, in the front line against the liberalisation of hunting.

We believe that birds migrating at night use the stars to guide them and that light pollution creates problems for them. Can you comment on that?

It is a huge problem if the skies are obscured the young birds do not even get to know that the stars are there. A group of astronomers has put forward a Parliamentary Bill requesting action on light pollution. I don't know when it will become law, in fact it might just lie buried as it is not taken seriously enough by certain politicians. There is also a Bill on the maltreatment of animals that is lying idle too.

As you have been a member of LIPU for many years you must think it is important to support LIPU and its activities.

It is vital that associations such as LIPU exist. Without them, who knows what would happen to our natural environment. Through support for the Association people can take some action and make their voices heard and thus make a difference in changing things for the better.

Which of the LIPU campaigns do you feel most in tune with?

I have always felt strongly about LIPU's struggle against hunting, which, in my opinion should be completely abolished. It is a remnant of ancient practices, from times when it was more of a necessity, but nowadays it is merely a sadistic pursuit. Among other things only a minority of the population is interested in it, perhaps less than a million now in Italy. However, there are strong commercial interests, arms manufacture, for example, and all the other accoutrements of the hunting scene. However there is also a lack of interest by the general population to be taken into account. I remember when there was a referendum on hunting it did not manage to achieve a quorum.

You have supported LIPU's 100,000 times NO campaign. Would you like to send a message to those who have not yet signed it. What is your personal opinion about that Bill?

It is vital to sign the petition, at a time when moves are being made by some people in government. Opening up hunting of protected species and hunting in parks are just two of the main issues. Anyone who loves animals and nature, and has a sense of justice, should sign it.

Translation of this issue was by Cicely Adelson, Barbara Avery, Alan Morgan, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley.

Thank you all.

NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

A couple of months ago LIPU appointed a new Director General from its own ranks. The press release says it all:

A WOMAN NOW AT THE HELM. ELENA D'ANDREA APPOINTED DIRECTOR GENERAL OF LIPU.

For the first time since its formation LIPU will be steered by a woman. Elena D'Andrea is from Verona, aged 42, and her qualifications include an Arts degree with a supplementary speciality in Communications and Social Marketing. She has been Director of Communication and Marketing at LIPU since 2001 and a member of the professional staff since 1990. Her new responsibility is to ensure the strategic, administrative and financial management of the whole of LIPU. The Association now has some 30,000 members, 100 local branches and 50 Reserves and Wildlife Recovery Centres. "I am extremely happy to be taking on this important task," she said. "For the first time it has been entrusted to a woman and that gives me a great amount of pride and satisfaction. At a time when LIPU is making organisational changes so as to better respond to its declared aims, including the protection of nature, especially birds, and the spread of an environmental culture, I am certain that this important new challenge will give me the right stimulus to give a strong boost to the Association".

The British section wishes the new, young leadership team of Giuliano Tallone, President and Elena d'Andrea the best of luck in their challenging roles.

A COUPLE OF EXCELLENT RESERVES

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Annual Assembly as a guest of LIPU, dutifully sitting through the business of two days and, no, my Italian is still not good enough to understand the intricacies of a balance sheet!

However, I did have the chance, thanks to Ugo Faralli, head of reserves and recovery centres to visit two wonderful wetland reserves.

Crava Morozzo is in Cuneo province in the north west of the country and not far from the French border. It was celebrating its 25th anniversary and we visited with Tomaso Giraudo, a member of the LIPU Council, who founded the reserve a quarter of a century ago.

It has lagoons fed from the local river with a slow but steady current and enjoys a very wide variety of birds as a result of a wide variety of habitats. I looked from a hide and could see two male Marsh Warblers competing over territory with competing songs - and they were less than twelve feet away!

A stone almost covered a drain outside the visitor centre and I saw a Great Tit fly in and then out. Carefully looking in we found a brood of ten chicks all looking well fed and healthy and this was no doubt due to the abundance of food in the area - yes a reserve of which LIPU can be very proud.

My flight home was in the afternoon and we drove to the airport via Ostiglia reserve which is near the River Po between Mantova and Ferrara. A Ramsar site, this reserve is a reed bed which is raised above the surrounding fields and surrounded by trees of singing Golden Orioles.

We saw a Purple Heron colony, a Bearded Tit and, if you've been wondering where all the cuckoos are this year - we saw them all at Ostiglia - a wonderful spot!

* * * * *

In the last edition of Ali I referred to the petition against the changes to the hunting law. I think it is going to be a huge success and race past the 100,000 signatures.

Members with e-mail have responded very well with both on-line and paper signatures but it was silly of me not to make it easier for the majority of members who haven't the means of using the web.

Therefore I am enclosing with this very busy edition a single sheet for signatures. Please copy it if you need and if you return it to me by the end of July we can be sure of having the forms in Italy in good time. I have left it in Italian to make it easy for Head Office but a translation of the text is provided below.

To: The President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi; The Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi;

The Minister for Agriculture and Forestry Policies, Giovanni Alemanno

As a citizen of Europe, and in support of LIPU's appeal, I hereby declare my opposition to proposals to change Law 157/1992 concerning the protection of wildlife and the pursuit of hunting that, if approved, would so distort the present law that a large part of current protection would be obliterated.

The proposals currently being debated in Parliament provide for: an increase in species on the hunting list, including some that are under threat, the lengthening of the hunting season into the migration and breeding seasons, hunting in protected areas, the depenalisation of hunting offences and others besides.

I request, therefore, that all such proposals be refused and that greater protection of nature be promoted, especially at this time when the balance of nature, and the fate of its wildlife, is in such a precarious state.

For your completion, Firma = Signature; Nome e Cognome = Name & Surname; Indirizzo = Address; Cittá = Town; CAP = Postcode and Provincia = Province (UK).

This really is important and it does help in this case to have an international list of petitioners. You will see that we cannot relax the pressure for a moment when I tell of the Interpretation Guide to the Birds Directive.

This document, of dubious provenance has been seized upon by the hunters as justification of the proposals to weakening the restrictions imposed by Law 157.

Ariel Brunner writes:

"We have produced a detailed document showing how the proposal under discussion in parliament to modify the hunting law, violates the Birds Directive time and again. We had to produce this document to counter the declarations made by pro hunting MPs

claiming that the Commission interpretative guide to the Directive backs the law proposal. This is manifestly false but with the Commission's document being currently available only in English many people took those claims for facts. Our document (downloadable from our web site) has provoked the most furious reactions for the extremist hunters' lobby which seems to indicate it has dealt them yet another hard blow. The great success of the petition and the other activities co-ordinated by Danilo (Selvaggi) is slowly but relentlessly sapping the life out of the law proposal that looks less and less likely to go anywhere. It is however much too early to get the Champagne bottles out…"

* * * * *

THE MESSINA BRIDGE (again) AND OTHER PROBLEMS

On page 10 you read of the blocking of the plans for the bridge over the Straits of Messina. That should have been the end of the matter but in parts of European politics nothing is what it seems.

Ariel recently sent me an update of how some of his work is going - we'll start with the bridge.

Natura 2000 management.

The Messina strait bridge is going on after a bitter battle in the EU parliament where it has been scrapped from the EU priority list but than reinstalled by the Ministers' council after a personal involvement of President Berlusconi and a political deal with the other governments and the decisive action of the European Popular Party. The RSPB has helped us make some fuss in the UK during the recent project fund raising "road show". The battle goes on.

We are facing an ever growing flood of violations to protected sites and are struggling to cope. However some success has been achieved. In Friuli the 4x4 rally in the dry steppe lands has been blocked and we are gaining support for SPA designation and a "participatory" management plan. In the Gargano steppe lands the commission has opened the infringement procedure (see my previous report) and we are trying to force authorities to open a dialogue. On the Ionian coast we are waiting for the regional court to rule on our latest legal case trying to block the imminent construction of the first of the marinas (the one on the Basento river mouth). The huge hotel in Sistiana bay (near Trieste) has been blocked by a WWF legal action (our case is still pending) so hopefully should never start.

SPA designation.

The commission has started the second phase of the infringement procedure against Italy at the beginning of this year and is proceeding swiftly toward the imposition of economic sanctions. This has unblocked the situation but at present there is little cooperation from the Ministry of Environment. We were about to obtain the designation of the IBAs in at least three regions but the ministry issued a "technical" report basically telling the regional governments that they can ignore our work (which has been paid for by the ministry itself!).

Furthermore, in this report it is argued that Regions should refer to the 1989 IBA inventory, except in the cases where we have reduced or eliminated IBAs in our latest revision (of course when we added or extended sites they stick to the old ones…).

They proceed in arguing that many IBA need not be designated as the qualifying species are already covered by other sites. We are now reacting to this poor technical report to convince the Commission that our goals are scientifically sound. We are also trying to convince the regional governments, but this is very difficult with the ministry actively working against designation.

Natura 2000 management guidelines.

We have produced for the Ministry of Environment a guideline document for SPA management and participated in the production of a general Natura 2000 management guidelines document. Both have been blocked by the Minister for the last 6 months but, apparently, the veto has now been removed and the documents will hopefully be going into print soon (I guess it has to do with the Commission putting pressure on the Ministry as one of the documents was produced using an EU LIFE grant).

... but on a more positive note:

Birds Directive 25th anniversary conference.

The May conference in Parma was a great success we got much positive feedback after it. It enabled us to raise our profile as "EU Directives specialists" and strengthen the dialogue with the more unenlightened part of the Farmers and Hunters camps. We participated with a LIPU stand to the "Green week", organised by the Commission in Brussels, beside the BirdLife and RSPB stands.

* * * * *

TAIL FEATHERS

Two things which will probably have the greatest impact on the future of this planet are climate change and the loss of habitat for wildlife. This truism is stated by so many so often, it is hard to see why things are not changing for the better more quickly than they are.

Just as one swallow doesn't make a summer so one hot season doesn't mean the climate is changing - but - it's very warm, it's mid June and we haven't had any rain since the first week of May. Worse still, I'm writing this instead of drinking Pimms on the lawn listening to this year's young birds in the bushes!

BRITISH BIRDWATCHING FAIR 2004

LIPU took part in the first birdwatching fair to be held in Italy - in Commachio in the Po delta at the end of May it was a great success and attended by over 25,000 people.

There are, of course many more bird watchers in this country and many of them will be attending the BBWF at Rutland Water from 20th to 22nd August this year.

If you are heading for the largest reservoir in England please look us up and say, "Hello". LIPU-UK will, as usual have a stand where we will be meeting friends old and new. As in previous years we are sponsored by Carl Zeiss UK which pays three quarters of the cost of our stand.

LIPU-UK ANNUAL DRAW

Our fund raising efforts have been successful again as we approach the end of our financial year. Thank you to all who contributed to the annual appeal, made other donations and who bought draw tickets.

It's now that time of the year again for the annual draw which receives more support from Carl Zeiss UK who are offering a pair of superb binoculars as a major prize. Thank you again, Carl Zeiss.

Thanks also to Mike & Christine Berry for running the draw for the last few years. Please note the use of the Whisby address for this year.

AISPA - the ANGLO-ITALIAN SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANIMALS

LIPU-UK enjoys an especially warm realtionship with AISPA, the organisation which helped found LIPU nearly forty years ago.

As I mentioned earlier, it is thanks to their generosity that the front page project, to monitor the whole of the migration path of raptors from Africa, was able to be mounted this year.

If you would like more information about AISPA, either drop me a line or write to AISPA, 136 Baker Street, London W1U 6DU or call 01743 232559.

* * * * *

LIPU-UK

Autumn Draw

2004

Last year's prize draw raised over £2,350, a very valuable contribution to our annual fund raising towards bird conservation and protection in Italy.

We are again holding a draw this Autumn with an exciting list of prizes. We realise that some people are not keen on this kind of fundraising, so please discard the enclosed tickets if you prefer not to participate.

The closing date is Saturday, 30th October, 2004 and the ticket counterfoils and money should be returned to David Lingard (whose address is on the tickets). Cheques should be payable to LIPU-UK. Please don't bother to return the unsold books.

We really appreciate the efforts of members in trying to sell as many books of tickets as possible to help our vital fundraising. Note that the ticket price this year is still 50p, and that the books contain 10 tickets each, thus coming to a nice round £5.

Each member (unless you've expressly asked not to receive them) should find two books enclosed, but please don't hesitate to contact David on 01522 689030 should you need further books.

THE PRIZES:

The Star Prize is a cheque for £500.

A pair of "Victory" 8 x 20 compact binoculars (courtesy Zeiss UK)

£100 worth of Mixed Fine Wines from a leading wine merchant.

A 'coffee table' book called "Natural History of the Waterfowl" produced by Ibis Publishing and written by Frank S. Todd. It is a beautiful, fully illustrated book of the waterfowl of the world, with 490 pages and measures 11" x 13.25" x 1.25" thick, and weighs about 4.5 kilos. There are around 750 full colour photos and fully detailed text with each species having population maps (courtesy of ICI).

A set of 6 DVDs on the Birds of Europe by Paul Doherty (courtesy Bird Images).

One year's subscription to Bird Watching magazine (courtesy of Emap Active Ltd.) - this monthly publication is an excellent read with amazing pictures.

A LIPU birding vest.

Drawings in this issue are by courtesy of the RSPB