Ali Notizie - The English Digest - June 2007

EDITORIAL JUNE 2007

It was brought home to me recently just how tough the challenges of nature are. It was the late May Bank Holiday and the weather took a change for the worse, we had been enjoying balmy spring days but on the Sunday the wind was from the north east and it was damp and miserable.

This was the day that our brood of five Blue Tits chose to leave the warmth and comfort of the nest box and it was to be a bad day for them. Fluffed up like balls, trying to stay warm they waited under cover for their bedraggled parents to bring food and as the day wore on it was clear this was going to be a close run thing. It was heart breaking to watch this example of "survival of the fittest" but there was no way to intervene as the birds would just have fluttered into the borders and become even wetter.

Sentimentality aside, small birds have large broods of young to allow for heavy losses, but it depends so much on luck - another nest box had eight Coal Tits fledge successfully five days earlier and they are probably doing well in the woods. Just one element of chance, the day they were ready to set out in the world, meant so much to our family of "blueys" - literally the difference between life and death...

I don't know the whole outcome, we found one pathetic, wet, little body the following morning and can only hope the others made it through the night - how fragile is life. Nature's balance is just that - balancing on a knife edge and it is so vulnerable to the variations in the weather, natural predators and so on - it can certainly do without the interference of man.

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Gallery

In coming issues I shall be introducing

our friends in LIPU in Parma who do

so much for the birds in Italy.

Elena D'Andrea was appointed Director General

in 2004 after 3 years as Director of Communications.

She has been with LIPU since 1990 and is the first

woman to be appointed to this post. Her background

in communications and marketing will be important in

the years ahead.

GRAND PROJECTS START WITH LITTLE STEPS

Giuliano Tallone, LIPU President

All truly great changes, including today's big challenge - saving our planet from ecological disaster - start with simple, everyday actions and the cooperation of individuals before they reach the world stage. LIPU and BirdLife International accepted this challenge a long time ago...

It is a simple gesture: to find an injured animal, treat it, and release it back into the wild from which it was abruptly removed. Our attitude towards the natural world is often born of empathy for other creatures, from a feeling that we could call "animalistic". However those causes that threaten the survival of animal species and their habitat today, operate on a very different scale: climate change, desertification, global pollution caused by the production of energy, transport and agriculture. BirdLife International, and within it, LIPU as our national representative, have been thinking for a long time, not only about what would be the right thing to do - even treating a single individual of a rare species - but also about what would be the most efficient and the most effective way to help the conservation of birds on a global scale. This task might seem immense and impossible to tackle; because of its complexity, because of the number of factors involved, and because of its elements: the earth's surface, the seas and the atmosphere - that thin layer of oxygen and other gases which make life on earth possible. And yet with strategic action, co-ordinated not only with the partners of the BirdLife International alliance, but also with those other actors which move on the stage of conservation policies, and also with those institutions which operate in the world of economics, finance, politics and community, it might be possible to try and respond to this enormous challenge of our age. This is the major task of our generation: to find a compatible balance between the use of natural resources by our current generation and their long-term conservation for our children and grandchildren.

Our attention remains strongly focused on the main concern of LIPU; those wonderful, living creatures that are birds - the most striking and varied examples of biodiversity. For this, the most important areas for conservation at an international level have been identified, including Key Biodiversity Areas, Endemic Bird Areas and the network of Important Bird Areas (IBA), of which there are 172 in Italy. Lists have been prepared of the species most at risk - Globally Threatened Species - such as in Italy the Lesser Kestrel (which is classified as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union Red List). These species have been the target of action plans at both European and World levels, to try and avoid extinction. For this, LIPU and a series of other partners from BirdLife care for a network of Reserves where they can protect species and habitat, inform and educate, and spread the use of management techniques that respond to the needs of nature. For this, our volunteers fight poaching in the Brescia Valleys, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, on Ischia, Vivara and Procida, at the Straits of Messina, in the Cagliari region, and in many other areas round the country where this unacceptable and illegal practice is still common. And finally, for this our Office for Institutional Relations lobbies Parliament with the aim of obtaining better laws for the environment, in the same way as BirdLife International lobbies both the Commission and European Parliament in Brussels.

It is essential that we also take part in even bigger projects, in order to influence the policies of the Kyoto Protocol, to discuss models of economic development, sustainability, "degrowth" of GDP, as we will do in the Convention which accompanies our annual National Congress, the most important opportunity for debate within the association. An old but timeless slogan, says: "think globally, act locally". LIPU has always done this, and will always try to do this. We need clear overall pictures, practical concrete experiences and pragmatic application. Each one of our members, through their support, helps us to follow this road day after day - a journey that we try to build and share with you all through the words of Ali.

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DEROGATION FOR HUNTING? WHAT FUN!

Abolishing the absurd regulation of the Bird Directive that allows hunting of small protected birds; this is the aim of the new petition presented by LIPU.

by Giuliano Tallone, LIPU President

A big petition is to collect signatures aimed at abolishing the practice that occurs every year in many Italian Regions with serious repercussions for the natural environment; shooting, "in derogation", of millions of small protected birds. Sparrows, Chaffinches, Bramblings and birds in general (especially songbirds) belonging to those species that the European Birds Directive excluded from hunting, but that thanks to a controversial clause in the Directive itself are nevertheless subject to hunting. How can this be possible? Thanks to the "hunting derogation" and in particular hunting for pleasure. This is article 9.1.c of the Bird Directive, better known as the "letter c", or the "small numbers of birds". The latest LIPU campaign focuses on the abolishing of the regulation "c", or better, to stop its application in Italy. A large petition addressed to the Italian Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture, for the Environment, for the Regional Affairs, and for European Politics, is underway requesting specific legislative action, but also addressed to the Regional Presidents and Presidents of the autonomous Provinces, to support the abolition of the derogation "for pleasure". Let us consider more closely the meaning of "hunting in derogation", so that we can have a clear understanding how it has so far been used in Italy.

A leak in the Directive

In 1979 the EU Directive 409/79/CEE, called "Birds"; was born. This is the EU reference for laws on bird conservation for the various EU Countries. The Directive was a long and difficult project, involving negotiations, discussions, technical and scientific data, as well as political compromises. It was an important step to ensure "good health" for continental and migratory birds. The Directive provides the foundations for the conservation of wild birds, giving the general rules of protection, and ensuring that EU Countries would adopt those measures for bird conservation. Among those measures, there were the safeguard of habitats, ZSP (Zone of Special Protection), particular protection to birds during breeding and migratory seasons, and regulation of hunting activities. The Directive dedicated to hunting (which is still one of the most controversial issues in environmental politics) included five specific articles, from number 5 to number 9, stating, among other things, that only those birds that were not in a critical conservation status, and only following precise laws, could be hunted. All other species could not be hunted, apart from - and here's the important point - in cases where derogations were granted. The article 9.1 of the Bird Directive allows hunting of birds that belong to species that have conservation priority. This article, and especially its subparagraph "c", constitutes a real leak in the Directive. This was left on purpose, as a "window" to allow strong and cunning lobbies to hunt birds. Following protests from these lobbies, this window was left open, as an exception to the rule. This exception has led to the legal killing of a large number of protected birds in the past 30 years, in all of Europe and especially in Italy.

The infamous letter "c"

There are three derogation possibilities for article 9.1 of the Directive: one granted for the public health and safety (letter "a"); one for scientific purposes (letter "b"); and one "to allow the capture or other measured activities of some birds in small numbers" (letter "c"). The "letter c" hides behind an almost incomprehensible phrase one of the anomalies of the whole Directive. While derogation allowed by "a" can be used to prevent losses to agriculture, and that allowed by "b" is restricted to limited cases of temporary capture of protected birds for study purposes, the one allowed by "c" is a way to allow hunting activities in themselves, without any other reasons other than "fun and pleasure". Furthermore, 9.1.c also states that the process of capture must be strictly regulated and monitored, and it must involve only small numbers of birds. In Italy, however, regulations and strict controls do not exist, and the number of birds killed is large, instead of "small". The number of Sparrows, Chaffinches, Bramblings, and Hawfinches killed in Italy is almost incalculable, and it is estimated to be around several million individual birds. Several millions! This is a "small number" by Italian standards! An Italian paradox, a situation that is no longer tolerable.

No to hunting of small protected birds

The LIPU petition aims at stopping this situation. It is a grand initiative with events, dinners, communication activities and lobbying actions which will mobilise volunteers, members, friends and nature lovers, as well as the general public, as happened three years ago with the "No wild hunting" campaign, which allowed us to raise 200,000 signatures against the attempt to liberalise hunting. Then it was against "wild hunting", today it is against "wild derogation". Today, as happened before, we need thousands of signatures. We need the commitment and support of everyone, so that we can abolish this strange letter "c", the "hunting for fun" derogation, so that we can take a step forward towards conservation of birds.

THE PETITION

What we want

The abolition, all over Italy, of the derogation for hunting small protected birds, the so-called "letter c" of the article 9.1 of the Bird Directive. Overall, we ask that the practice of hunting of millions of small birds covered by the derogation, is abolished.

What birds are usually killed

Especially small passerines, among which are Chaffinches, Bramblings and Sparrows.

What we ask and of whom

To the "Presidente del Consiglio" (Prime Minister), to the Ministers of Agricultural Politics, Environment, Regional Affairs, European Politics, we request a law that cancels the application of the article 9.1.c. of the Bird Directive in the whole Country. To the various Regional Presidents and Presidents of Autonomous Provinces we ask them to promote the approval of regional norms which would abolish the derogation of hunting these birds for pleasure. We ask all citizens to sign the petition.

Hunting derogations - the Italian case

Finally, procedures are being taken against Italy for law infringement. They were opened by the EU Commission in Spring 2006, followed by a 60 point-document which lists the shortfalls of Italy and many of its regions. The focus of this document is not only the hunting derogations, but also other aspects of the Bird Directive, such as the delay in the conservation measures for ZSP. The derogations, however, are the most controversial problems. They should be "exceptional measures" to adopt in special and strictly monitored conditions. Instead, in Italy they are tools "mainly used to authorise a sort of year-round hunting regime of birds that should not be hunted". This situation puts Italy in an almost unique spot for bad application of the Directive in the whole of Europe. Under fire from the EU Commission are mainly the "pleasure" derogations (letter c), but also those granted for public health and safety (letter a), which are also often used as a mere tool to hunt protected species such as starlings, cormorants, and so on. Italy now faces a multi-million Euro penalty, which would ultimately fall on the citizens. One more reason to abolish the derogations for "fun".

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NEWS OF THE S.O.S. SPARROWS PROJECT

The Public has noticed it, but now the worrying fall in the numbers of sparrows has become the object of a special study. We shall see why.

by Marco Dinetti

A dossier for everyone, presented in a scientific manner, but at the same time making widely available the characteristics of sparrows, the causes of the reduction in numbers and techniques for active conservation. These are some of the objectives that LIPU has set itself with the "Sparrow S.O.S." project. But it is not enough. The Association has also set in place an etiological investigation of the behaviour of sparrows, as well as continuing censuses by transect method, as desired at the conclusion of the Meeting which took place on 22nd /23rd February, at the Zoological Institute of London, on the decline of the urban House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). In particular, there was a request to focus attention, documented with video, photographic and cartographic reviews, on the following behaviours of the Italian Sparrow: courtship rituals between males and females, group displays, in which a certain number of males display, calling and fluttering wings in front of a single female; nesting by isolated pairs (calculating distance between nests); dormitories and forming flocks before moving to the dormitories. Sparrows are a widespread species and known by everyone: the typical "passerotto", technically known as the Italian Sparrow, is the most common of small birds, and lives under the roofs of our houses. In recent years, however, in various cities in Italy and the rest of Europe, there has been a decline, sometimes a dramatic one, of these species. This is the reason why S.O.S. Sparrow has arisen, with the London meeting, whose scope is to unite all those taking part in studies and actions concerning causes of decline in European passerines. There were 27 participants from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Norway and India. Eleven papers were presented, besides a round table on methods of census taking, on definitions of urban typology, on methods of working with the public, and other matters too. The first contribution was given by the outstanding observer of these species of sparrow, J. Denis Summers-Smith, who has been studying this group of birds since 1947. The researcher has underlined how the decline within urban areas has been in evidence since 1990/91, and, an interesting fact, in this case the alarm has come from the general public rather than from ornithologists. Other reports were on reproductive biology with artificial nests, the map of decline in London, the effect of predation by domestic cats, research on characteristics of private gardens, questionnaires, experimental models of artificial nests in Holland, censuses taken in cities in Belgium and Germany, causes of mortality and pathology. Finally, the participants proposed further future biennial meetings, and more intensive monitoring and specific research to understand better the cause of decline in sparrows in urban areas. The LIPU project was also presented on this occasion.

The dossier on Sparrows has recently been printed, a volume of 52 pages, with many photographs and graphics in colour, explaining how to recognise sparrows, how to study them, what to do to protect them and prevent their decline. The first part is dedicated to "birdwatching" practices, and includes maps of the distribution of the four species in Italy: European Sparrow (Passer domesticus), Italian Sparrow (Passer sarda), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) and Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis). There is an analysis of those attending, hundreds of sympathisers, activists, LIPU Members, answering the call "Sparrow S.O.S." put out in ALI February 2006, and with last September's mailing. So the public perception of sparrow decline becomes apparent, but not only that: the dossier also publishes the first graphics of the census figures. The second part illustrates the causes of the decline (loss of habitat and nesting sites, less food availability, pollution, competition and predation, street mortality, pathology, etc.). Then follows an interview with the noted ornithologist J. Denis Summers-Smith. Finally, there are practical suggestions for the protection of sparrows (artificial nests, feeders, habitat) and an overview of the measures expected from the LIPU project.

The central section contains a scientific article which outlines an up to date review of sparrows with estimates of population in Italy, distribution in all regions, figures and censuses for cities where detailed investigations have been made. The national situation is contrasted with the European, especially as regards the causes of decline, and finally, techniques of monitoring are set out.

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CLIMATE: HOW TO LIMIT THE DAMAGE

Install solar panels and refute the logic of the throw away society. Luca Mercalli, the well-known climatologist, shows how we can contribute to limiting the damage caused by the climate change already in train.

by Andrea Mazza

The latest news on the climate front is dramatic. The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set out by 2500 scientists after six years of work, accuses Man of being chiefly responsible for the greenhouse effect and foresees a series of frightening scenarios: glaciers collapsing, coastal areas invaded by the sea, heatwaves, drought, shortages of food and water, epidemics of malaria even outside the tropics. And 30% of animal species heading for extinction. All of which is to come about within a few decades, at most before the end of the century. While waiting for measures to be taken at an international level which would at least alleviate the damage, each of us must make an individual contribution by adopting a more restrained style of life, which eliminates waste, recycles resources and combats pollution. We have discussed this with Luca Mercalli, known from his intense activity in disseminating his ideas whether on television or in the press. A climatologist and expert on glaciation, he lives in Val di Susa, where he warms himself with wood and solar panels. A lifestyle consistent with the environmental message he brings.

An interview with Luca Mercalli

Dr Mercalli, can anything be done at the individual level to save the planet from the disastrous effects of climate change?

Yes, certainly, but there has to be a profound cultural change. And this will be possible only if we are capable of re-establishing the concept of our limits. Man, like other creatures, has physical limitations, but fuelled by petroleum we think ourselves omnipotent. One no longer thinks in terms of the satisfaction of needs but of whims. By way of analogy, we might take an example from the bird world. Let's compare, say, man and the peacock. It is a bird that expends great resources to no real purpose. But it does it with the materials naturally available to it, not taking any from others elsewhere. Man today on the other hand performs peacock-like displays with polluting and powerful cars, using up resources from the biosphere and causing grave damage to the planet.

You propose a radical change in our model of development. What are the chances of this being successful?

It is an unavoidable process if our survival is to be guaranteed. Each year 80 million individuals are added to the world's population: how can we hope to have resources for all if we are not prepared to reduce our consumption? Once essential resources are guaranteed, such as water and sanitation, a step forward can be made: to "dematerialise" our happiness, by reducing our use of material goods for a life with moderation as its byword.

How can we convince emerging nations to make these sacrifices, just as the possibility of increased consumption is opening up to them?

By offering them a different model from the American one, to which countries such as China are looking. Europe, which has announced its intentions seriously to combat greenhouse gases, will have to become a guide to them.

Any other advice so as not to squander resources?

First: to escape the logic of the supermarket, for example, spend the weekend birding. Second: reject "use and throw away" in favour of "use and re-use". Third: spend the money for the new car on installing solar panels. In the end there has to be a cultural shift. One last point: read "The New Limits of Development" by Randers and Meadows, an indispensable book.

Who is Luca Mercalli?

Born in Turin in 1966, Luca Mercalli is a climatologist who has specialised principally in climatic history and the glaciation of the western Alps. He is President of the Italian Meteorological Society, the foremost national association in the atmospheric science sector. In 1993 he founded the meteorological journal Nimbus, which he edits, and has published 85 scientific papers as well as having over 650 articles in publications from La Repubblica to Alp, L'Alpe and La Rivista della Montagna. He has conducted 450 conferences in Italy and abroad, and been interviewed on many television programmes. In 2004 he published the polemical volume "Cows Don't Eat Cement", against the concreting-over of the landscape and "The Time is Now - break calmly through the fogs of platitudes and poisons of the atmosphere".

LIPU's advice for combating the greenhouse effect and avoiding waste

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Transparency, organisation and communication

The task for LIPU is, more than ever, to develop a clear and direct rapport with the members, the real force behind our Association.

by Elena D'Andrea, Director General of LIPU

Clearly, many of you are people who want to take an active part in the social life of our country and who do it with a positive determination to get results.

I believe that participation and realism are the two fundamental characteristics that you also wanted to find in LIPU, the organisation to which you belong. What is more, it is solidarity, with birds, with nature, with our environment, which is one of the ways which all of us in LIPU have found to overcome that insensitivity and selfishness which are ever more prevalent in our society. Perhaps it is this awareness, this sharing of ideals and goals which is pushing us to develop to the maximum the relationship that we have with each and every one of our members.

We are very conscious of the real strength that your contribution can give whether to a wider social transformation or to the actions that we undertake to defend our natural heritage. 29% of all Italians made at least one donation to charity during the course of last year, and of these 4% did so in aid of the protection of animals and a further 3% to protect the environment (figures from Doxa 2006). These are acts of social commitment to which LIPU wishes to guarantee above all a reliability which is both "ethical" and "practical". It is therefore only fair to reassure our donors about our capacity to manage the funds which we receive; for this reason the Annual accounts are subjected to examination by the auditors and, at an organisational level, measures for the optimisation and control of the budget have been put in place. There now exists a proper school of business management for non-profit organisations and we subscribe to its principles of efficiency and effectiveness, of professional competency and transparency.

Your membership contributions, your donations to special appeals, your purchases of products bearing the LIPU brand are the basic ways by which you, the members, make us aware whether and how much you support our work for birds and for nature. Your continuing support is the most important sign for us if we are to know if we have been doing our job properly and if we have been successful in communicating the results. Too often have I noted that, pressed as we are to act, we have neglected to communicate what we are doing. As a result, not only have we increased our mass media campaigns but we are also creating themed newsletter updates as well as improving our web site. Over the last few years the ways of donating have multiplied. Bequests in wills are one well-known example: more and more people are choosing to devote a part of their estates to social causes and it is the same as far as we are concerned. So much so that LIPU has developed a proper code of good practice in this respect. Another recent example is the "five per thousand" thanks to which we are now able to donate a percentage of our taxes to non-profit organisations. This latest form of donation however must not take the place of the direct support afforded by the renewal of subscriptions, but it is a extra gesture of solidarity. All these matters - the gathering of funds, communication, the relationship with the members and responsiveness to their needs, reporting on our activities - are discussed in the fourth and fifth sections of "LIPU's Strategic Document 2006-2010: five crucial years for the preservation of biodiversity". We have wanted to formalise the objectives and principles which underlie all the activities we undertake in order to achieve the moral and economic consensus we must have as a basis for our actions. And our activity focusses, as you know, only on the protection of birds and of biodiversity and on environmental education.

RICE FIELDS ARE PROTECTED FOR HERONS

Rice paddies in Lomellina are becoming protected areas as special habitats for herons, egrets and night herons.

by Patrizia Rossi

Rice and herons, there is something that links them. In Italy there are about 200,000 hectares of rice paddies, producing more than a million tons of rice. These figures make Italy the prime producer in Europe. Cultivation is concentrated into a limited area of the Po Plain, which includes the provinces of Pavia (mainly Lomellina), Milano, Novara and Vercelli. The same area has the greatest populations of heron species in Europe, especially Night Herons and Little Egrets (about 40% of the European population), but also Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Great White Herons, Squacco Herons, Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibis and Spoonbills. These species gather into a so-called "heronry" in reedbeds and wetland woods, where tens or even hundreds of pairs breed and feed their young on the small creatures they find in the paddy fields.

The Regions of Lombardy and Piemonte have set up a large number of reserves to protect the heronries, and further areas are also similarly protected within Regional Parks. Recently the Region of Lomardia has taken a further step forwards by designating the Lomellina Special Protection Zone. It is part of Network 2000 (the enormous European ecological network for the protection of biodiversity) and includes a large proportion of the area under rice in Italy. In fact, it was not sufficient to protect just the heronries themselves, the rice fields, the source of food, had to be included. The rice fields and the waterways connecting them shelter many other species, some of which, like the Bittern, are under threat. LIPU, helped by a contribution from the EU, hopes the Regions will support a rice cultivation that favours both birds and rice quality. In contributing to the protection of the rice habitat LIPU is following the Orpesa project, a European initiative for training and education for the production of ecologically compatible rice production. Within the framework of this project LIPU has recently organised a day course for local rice producers in Lomellina.

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ROMAN NATURAL SPLENDOUR

The Lipu reserve of Castel di Guido is a tiny paradise of countryside a few kilometres from the most beautiful capital in the world

by Ugo Faralli

A recent telephone call from Jacapo Cecare, manager of the reserve at Castel di Guido, was typical of many in the 7 years since the formation of the first LIPU reserve in Lazio, just outside Rome.

"There are 7 pairs of black kite nesting, we have 30 pairs of bee eaters and one nest box contains a wryneck's egg. There is a study of musk beetles and we are the monitoring the flora. The laxflowered and butterfly orchids make a wonderful spectacle. School visits are going well with more than 40 from elementary and middle schools and over a thousand people have taken part in events during March and April. We have found the time to put together a short television documentary based on our research entitled "The Forest of Mice". Then there are the usual management tasks such as contacts with local organisations and publicity."

Jacapo has managed the reserve since its first day as a protected area and has carried out the plans that we had made with Danilo, Valeria, Chiara and Alessia, all LIPU volunteers who helped translate the plans into reality, whether acting as guides, clearing paths or surveying the Long-eared Owls. Castel di Guido was born out of collaboration with the environment and agriculture committee of the Comune di Roma.

Today the reserve represents one of the last vestiges of the countryside which up to a few decades ago surrounded Rome. Threatened by the growing city and agricultural practices that damage the environment, the Roman countryside only survives thanks to reserves like this in which so many small habitats survive side by side. In the low lying areas there are cultivated and fallow fields, meadows, canals and ditches with aquatic vegetation, brambles and hedges and Mediterranean scrub. The hilly areas are replanted with pines and holm and other oaks.

So at the very gates of Rome (it's about 40 km as the crow flies to the most famous city in the world) we have many habitats which cannot but attract a huge variety of wildlife.

Research plays an important part in the work made possible by support from Rome’s city council. Enough to say there have been 13 research projects on birds, 2 of them on nesting species and autumn migration, are others are on going. Volunteers take part in surveys and interested visitors are always welcome.

By the end of the year a visitor centre will be open which we aim to make the nerve centre of the reserve and it will be the pride and joy of Jacapo and everyone who loves Castel di Guido.

A few statistics:

More than 28,000 visitors, about 240 school groups

over 150 wildlife events and 200 items in newspapers, on television and radio, both local and national.

There are 2 nature trails, an education gazebo, an information point and 2 ringing stations.

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NEW HOPE FPR THE SUMATRAN FOREST

One of the most complex Birdlife projects for protecting the severely threatened Indonesian tropical forests has been successfully concluded.

by Marco Lambertini

Harapan in Indonesian means hope. This is the name given to the hundred thousand hectare forest (twice the size of the National Abruzzo Park in Italy) which the coalition of BirdLife International partners led by Burung Indonesia (the Indonesian "LIPU") succeeded in saving, bringing to a conclusion what seemed to be an "impossible project" and a desperate fight against time. Five years ago Harapan was "simply" a forest intended for the production of timber, continually threatened by the risk of being destroyed in order to produce fields of palm oil trees. In an historic meeting at Bogor near Jakarta in 2002 Burung Indonesia officials developed the dream of protecting this forest and creating a precedent which could save other areas which were threatened in the same way. This dream was pursued with incredible devotion and competence by the Indonesian BirdLife partner, supported by other European partners in Britain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Luxembourg. The Italian Nando Peretti Foundation also helped to finance the initiative, as did the Forestry Bureau of Taiwan. The result was better than expected! In June 2004 the Indonesian Forestry Minister introduced a decree which created a new category of forest "for the restoration of the ecosystem" and in September of the same year Harapan was declared the first forest of this type. Two years later the BirdLife coalition made an agreement with the company which was still felling timber in the area and the chainsaws were silenced for good. In February 2007 the ministerial decree was converted into law with a vote in Parliament and the signature of the President of the Republic. Objective achieved... or better... dream come true!

An important precedent

Harapan is safe and many other forests will be able to benefit from this. The most significant aspect, apart from the immense satisfaction of having protected such an important forest, is that the change in the law will allow other forests which do not form part of the national system of protected areas to be protected, especially those most threatened by being converted into industrial plantations. "We are expecting dividends for the fauna and for the local community." declared Sukianto Lusli, Director of Burung Indonesia, alluding to the socio-economic objectives of the BirdLife project, which not only aims to protect the forest, but also to demonstrate that intelligent management can also produce economic advantages for the local community. This is apart from the small indigenous population of Orang Rimba or Suku Anak Dalam people who still live in the forest and who are sustained totally by it.

The miracle forests

Burung Indonesia had identified the forests of the Sumatran plains as one of the most threatened environments in the nation because of the expansion of enormous plantations of palm oil and acacia for the production of paper. During my journey to Sumatra in 1981, the island looked like a carpet of endless jungle. In many areas timber was cut selectively, but the forest regenerated. With the coming of palm oil the forests were clear-felled to grow this much more lucrative crop, mainly with investments by European banks and companies, initially to satisfy the western market but more recently the Chinese and Indian markets. 90% of the forests of the Sumatran plains disappeared in a few decades. These are the richest forests on the planet with regard to flora, and they shelter amazing fauna: Asian elephants, gibbons, various other primates, Malaysian tapirs, collared bears, the extremely threatened Sumatran Tiger and six other feline species, including the mysterious Clouded Leopard. 267 species of birds can be observed now in Harapan, of which 71 are on the world Red List.

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NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

LIPU Council Election

I am sorry the timing of the election prevented me from explaining it in the last Ali but I learned of it just days after taking the last edition to the post office.

Elections to the LIPU council take place every four years and we have full voting rights if we are over 18 and have been a member for a full year. That said, I realise that for the majority of members in this country the candidates are very much unknown quantities and, for some, the arrival of the papers caused some concern.

Four years ago I suggested a solution to keep the mailing costs to a minimum and simplify life for all, but as the latest vote neared there was a serious concern that the whole election could be declared null and void if we did not follow exactly the same procedure with members outside Italy as with domestic voters.

I hope you were not annoyed by what might have appeared an expensive postal exercise - it is the price we pay for democracy and transparency.

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ANNUAL APPEAL

The 2007 "Stop the Massacre" appeal is going well and is on target for raising a similar sum to that of last year; but it has not yet closed and if you should still want to contribute and make this year a special one I'll be happy to receive any contributions. A sincere "Thank You" to those members and friends who have already made this appeal a success.

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THANK YOU PRUDENCE!

As our next Prime Minister leaves No 11 for the short journey next door, I have mixed feelings about his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer. I'll not comment on any of his measures that have not directly affected us, but the best thing he did was to revise the Gift Aid scheme and that brought in around £8000 in reclaimed income tax.

However, in his, now notorious, last budget he reduced the basic rate of the tax which we can reclaim and, at a stroke, we and all other charities, have lost an eleventh of their income from Gift Aid - not so good, Mr Brown.

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DON'T BELIEVE THERE ARE NO BIRDS IN ITALY

Chloe Penning

When I retired to Le Marche (mid-Italy on the Adriatic side) in 2003, birding friends thought I was crazy! However, birds and indeed all the wildlife have exceeded my hopes. I live in the Sibillini Mountain National Park, where hunting and shooting of birds is prohibited. "Rare" birds which I might try and see in Norfolk, are summer residents here, seen from the garden or our lane, such as Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Nightjar, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine and Melodious Warblers to name only a few. Common Buzzards have been known to perch in the garden.

In the nearby mountains Wallcreeper, Coralline and Alpine Chough, Rock Thrush, Peregrine Falcon, Crag Martin, Snow Bunting and Snow Finch can be found. Also Golden Eagles breed here and can be seen if you are lucky.

In the more remote mountain areas wolves are increasing and brown bear and lynx have been seen. Our nearby woods shelter black squirrels, dormice, porcupines, polecat ferrets and various martens, foxes and roe deer and many wild boar. So even if the "no birds" myth were true, there's such amazing wildlife here! And I haven't even mentioned the fabulous butterflies, insect and wildflower and orchid species or the fascinating snakes and lizards. This little known part of Italy is truly a nature lover's paradise!

Anyone interested in holidaying here is welcome to email me at chloepenning@yahoo.co.uk for ideas on places to stay and visit.

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My thanks to all those who wrote or emailed to offer comments on the revised format of the Ali. All the comments were encouraging and I'll continue to try to fill the newsletter with topical and interesting news, any and all contributions are welcome. It does cost a little more to produce ion the new format, but most of the extra would have been spent on increased postal costs an most of you seem to like it.

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Stop Press

News just in concerns the work to protect shearwaters on the island of Linosa which we have supported for the last two years. As a result of the data the Sicily Region has agreed to a rat eradication programme, which was beyond the means of LIPU. Similar programmes in other parts of the world have been spectacularly successful; the removal of the rats, usually introduced by man, has allowed the native wildlife to recover and rebuild threatened populations.

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My thanks go again to the translators of this issue who were: Cicely Adelson, Barbara Avery, Joanna Bazen, Daria Dadam, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley, the line drawings are by courtesy of the RSPB and the photographs (except that of Elena) are mine.

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