Ali (Wings) - The English Digest - June 2010

Editorial June 2010

I was very pleased to be invited to the 45th annual Assemblea, or Annual General Meeting, of LIPU which was held in Sabaudia, some 60 miles south of Rome, in mid May this year. This event, which should have been so cheerful was overshadowed by the news of the tragic deaths of two volunteers near Genoa just a couple of days before. We held a minute’s silence and, at the end of the day, those attending the meeting joined to show solidarity with Paola and Elvio, you can see the picture inside the rear cover.

After this, it seems difficult to recount the happy moments, of which there were many. A surprise, and a wonderful one at that, was to be presented with a certificate, on behalf of LIPU-UK, for the milestones which I’ll describe in more detail later.

Sabaudia is a young town in the heart of the Circeo National Park whose coastline is much used by Romans at the weekends. It was built in 1935 as a part of Mussolini’s project to drain the Pontine Marshes and provide employment for thousands. A little research on the Internet tells us, in the words of Wikipedia, that the project reached a peak in 1933 with 124,000 men employed. The previous agrarian population was moved out under protest in the name of progress. Workers were interned in camps surrounded by barbed wire. The camps were overcrowded, wages low, hours long, food bad, sanitation poor, health care missing, medical attention lacking. Workers could quit. The turnover was high. In 1935 at the completion of the phase they were all dismissed without notice. Many were infected with malaria.

The government placed about 2000 families (most from northern Italy and of unimpeachable Fascist background) in standardised but carefully varied two-storey country-houses of blue stucco with tiled roofs. Each settler family was assigned a farmhouse, an oven, a plough and other agricultural tools, a stable, some cows and several hectares of land, depending on local soil fertility and the size of the family.

Much was destroyed and many died in fierce fighting between the Allied forces which had landed at Anzio and the German army which fought a dogged defence.

Now the area has matured with fresh water pools and woodland as well as farmland; we spent a day birdwatching and saw a good variety of birds in lovely habitat. However, in the manner, so typical of Italy, the Carabinieri had closed some of the roads so the army could have weapons practice. The sound of gunfire all morning did nothing to stop the warblers feeding their young even if it caused us to question this use of a National Park.

It brought back memories of a day twenty years ago, when I was arrested by the Carabinieri in Sicily, but that is another story...

JUST A FEW FATAL MINUTES

By Elena Rossini, Voluntary Sector

12 May 2010, 10.00 am

Paola Quartini, LIPU activist from Genoa, and Elvio Fichera, volunteer of the Associazione Amici Animali Abbandonati (the Association for Abandoned Animals), both animal welfare workers, were in Sussisa, near Sori, in the province of Genoa, accompanied by two constables and two police officers.

They were there for a precise reason: to serve a warrant on Renzo Castagnola for cruelty to animals. Castagnola, in fact, kept several dogs, belonging to others, in terrible conditions, as proved by previous inspections carried out by animal welfare officers, to the point that the animals were to be legally confiscated by the public prosecutor.

After an inspection, Castagnola and the two volunteers headed for his house situated opposite the makeshift kennels, in order to sign the necessary documents for the confiscation of the dogs. Castagnola, then, on the pretext of finding a pen or of making a phone call, went into his house alone and reappeared soon after – armed. In a few moments, an unimaginable tragedy occurred. Castagnola fired several shots at Paola Quartini and then at Elvio Fichera, killing them outright. He then injured his wife before turning the gun on himself and taking his own life. A few moments that left no time for the victims to defend themselves, to escape or for the police to intervene.

It is difficult to reconstruct exactly what happened that morning, but the tragic outcome is clear; two volunteers have been murdered and a third man, both victim and killer, is dead and those who witnessed those terrible events must now live with that horror.

The two animal welfare volunteers, both with years of dedication and experience, had been dealing with the case for some time as they had with several animal and environmental issues in the area. With the authorisation of a warrant, and accompanied by public officials, the two acted in full respect of the law, but these precautions did not help them. The dynamics of this tragic episode must be looked into to check that the possible dangers were not underestimated. For this reason, LIPU has employed a lawyer and will act as plaintiff in the legal proceedings. We owe this to Paola and to those she leaves behind.

We all feel the deepest sorrow and regret for what happened as we discover that, even in 2010, people can still lose their lives for an ideal even so close to home.

A Personal Memorial to Paola

Aldo Verner, LIPU Delegate, Genoa.

Our Guardian, Paola Quartini, was 54. She had been a Wildlife Guardian and representative of ENPA (Ente Nazionale per Animali) of Tigullio for years. She came to us, on leaving ENPA, through mutual friends and had taken part in a training course for Hunting and Environmental Guardians, passing the examination at the same time as me in 2005.
She was one of the most active from the first, always available for ‘early starts’ for meetings at Tigullio, because almost all of us live to the west of Genoa. She was especially knowledgeable on law and regulations, which she quoted from memory, constantly bringing us up to date and correcting us if we quoted a superseded rule.

She was certainly an animal-life activist, whether she was helping the cat’s home in difficulties, or finding a place for an ill-treated dog, but she also knew how to put a stop to tree-felling, to discover harmful dumping, to relieve suffering for a blackbird or to rescue a gull. She was writing a Safety Regulation document for the Comune of Recco and she represented us at the Provincial Committee on Fauna.

When we went on watch together, she was always correct and courteous, but she would not take any nonsense from anybody. In the hunting closed season she gave her whole time, every day, to breaches of the law and to preventing the ill-treatment of dogs – we were in the process of planning an action together.

Nevertheless, she was always correct, never raised her voice – she was no “Rambo”. I was wary of her phone calls because she kept me on the line for hours, but she would not be offended if I cut her off, perhaps she knew she was not exactly ‘concise’. I took her about, telling her she did not know a blackbird from a chaffinch, but she replied that, for this, she had me to rely on. Sometimes, I would say that she was too animal-focussed for LIPU, that we are an environmental organisation, but primarily for birds and she would reply “ Look, animals are all equal.”

Even now I find myself wanting to call for her help. It leaves an unbridgeable void for us and, above all, her family and friends. We are all in shock, and I thank everyone for their condolences.

Defence of the Weak, a Difficult Path

Livio Frantone, Co-ordinator, LIPU Guards of Genoa

This is a message circulated to all the national LIPU Guards and all the animal-protection associations who are fighting courageously for animal rights. “For evil to triumph, it is only necessary that good men do nothing.” It is the anonymous thought displayed on the notice-board of the meeting room of the LIPU Guards of Genoa.

The murders of Paola Quartini and Elvio Fichera reminds us that the defence of the weakest is, at times, dangerous and difficult. Do not give up, do not be afraid, because Paola and Elvio would not have been so.

Pride and Respect for the Volunteer

By Massimo Soldarini, Manager of the Voluntary Sector

It is difficult to write this article and find the right words to express the pain and anger for the loss of our two volunteers, two of our friends. And perhaps it is important to start from here with the act of volunteering, with the motivation which impels so many people to give up their free time, sometimes all their free time, for an ideal. There exists in human nature a strong tendency to altruism, we are after all a very social species. Getting involved in voluntary work, over and above the good which is done, satisfies an inner impulse as well.

The existence of voluntary work, with its special characteristics of ongoing and selfless commitment, for the benefit of people outside one’s own circle of family and friends, in the cause of solidarity with and the furtherance of an ideal, is one of the most significant elements of social life and recognised in a socio-political way within Italian legislation.

However, the voluntary sector is also, and above all, a personal phenomenon dictated by notions of solidarity and by the desire to invest time, skills, feelings and resources without forethought and without anyone demanding it. When this phenomenon comes together with that of other people, then we see the birth of a voluntary organisation. At the base of it all is the awareness that responding to any human need improves the quality of the society in which we live.

It is nonetheless right and proper that we should make sure that those people who are involved in the voluntary sector are able, through the experience, to gain some sort of reward in their relationships and their style of life which guarantees authentic benefits both for the activists and for those they help.

The principle of altruistic giving, by which the volunteer decides to invest in favour of others without an immediate return, presupposes a wide sense of responsibility which makes such a person a real social resource and a constructive contributor to society.

The voluntary sector, if it is free of the ties of possible financial compromise, is the main element in society which, through its own experience and not for its own private advantage, is able to denounce injustices, failures and errors. It gives voice to those who do not have the means to demand justice, often identifying new problems in society, focussing on the first forms of response and demonstrating real freedom of action and political awareness.

And this is also the story of the birth of LIPU, formed around an ideal considered essential, both social and environmental as well as cultural. This happened 45 years ago, but this ideal is as alive now as it was then, even more so as today, LIPU is a mature voluntary organisation, able to proclaim its message with branches throughout the country. It is well structured and owes its existence to a group of about 1,000 extraordinary people – the volunteers backed up by our 45,000 supporters.

A thousand people – have you thought about that? People who perhaps will never know each other, but who struggle together to reach a single objective – the protection of nature. A thousand people in LIPU who do a thousand things. From environmental education to awareness raising, through the organisation of evenings, excursions, trips, birdwatching courses, from work camps to wildlife censuses, from the management of Oases and protected areas to the care of wild animals in difficulty, from the uncovering of environmental crime to campaigns to make politicians work for nature conservation. Last, but by no means least, environmental protection. Of those thousand of ours, a hundred or so look after the monitoring of hunting activities, of fishing, of anti-poaching efforts as well as the mistreatment of animals, of the illegal trade in wildlife and of environmental offences.

It is a very demanding role; it can be sensitive, risky and difficult at times. It demands, in addition to so much passion and commitment, an enormous input of time. And it is, let us not forget, unpaid and voluntary.

When, in a moment of calm and occasionally, despondency, I manage to speak seriously with these volunteers, I uncover incredible stories and now is the right time to tell you about them. They are stories of self-denial, of sacrifices, of burned out cars, of threats of every sort, of gratuitous insult but at the same time of certainty, of the conviction of being in the right, of the pride of belonging to LIPU. It is a real pride, deeply felt, first of all for our badge with its Hoopoe and then for themselves. It also comes before their material things, sometimes before their families, their loved ones and their work.

In all of them, there lives a strong civic sense, a respect for the law and a desire to bear witness to what brings about positive results whether in terms of education or in social change in the context of the, too often neglected, protection of the environment.

Do you understand now? A strong, a very strong motivation, so strong as to risk the ultimate sacrifice of the loss of one’s life.

This is what happened to Paola. For her, it was a day like any other with a routine monitoring activity to do. She couldn’t have imagined that she was going to her death because of the terrible deed of a madman.

However long it is, whoever comes to sit in my place, I will always have a clear and complete memory of Paola. Her memory will always be honoured with respect and pride for having engaged unhesitatingly in the commitment which is ours and was Paola’s.

The 18th May 2010 was a beautiful sunny day at Camogli, with the muted ringing of the bells and the screaming of the gulls. But it was for us, the saddest and most harrowing of days, there to give a final salute from LIPU to Paola in silent dignity with a single LIPU banner bordered in mourning black.

Then together with the volunteers from Genoa, with Aldo the delegate and with Fulvio the Vice-president, I carried her coffin on my shoulder. I gently stroked it as someone had asked me to do for him, while the sorrow and tears which I could not hold back stopped me from feeling its weight. I shall carry this memory with me always. Farewell Paola.

PROJECT SWALLOW

By Andrea Mazza, LIPU Press Officer

A new project to study the migration of swallows began last April and was funded by the Cariplo Foundation and co-ordinated by the University of Milan in collaboration with the University of Milan-Bicocca, LIPU and the consortium for the management of the Parco Adda Sud.

The project, which will be concluded in 2012, expects in this initial phase to utilise new and innovative methods including 200 ‘geolocators’. These are small, extremely lightweight (less than a gram) electronic devices which have been placed on the back of many swallows. This method represents a breakthrough in the study of bird migration and the effects on it caused by climate change.

The swallows involved will be recaptured during the breeding season of 2011 and thanks to the information obtained through the devices, the researchers will be able to identify the exact migration routes and the precise wintering areas of the swallows in sub-Saharan Africa.

To differentiate these, the researchers will cross-reference the demographic trends of the swallows to the climate in the wintering areas, so that they can study the effects of the climate changes on the migration of these creatures.

The second part of the study will involve LIPU and the Park Adda Sud. The farmers in the park will be made aware of the need to adopt the best practices for the management of farming – those that make a positive impact on biodiversity and in particular on the habitat of the swallows. They also need awareness of the importance of stable meadows – grassland that is left natural for years – and forage crops (such as Lucerne) in the immediate vicinity of nesting sites such as farms or stables.

Furthermore, these proposals to the farmers will underline the need for coexistence between man and nature by installing weatherboarding under the nests to collect the droppings and so prevent the problem of deliberate destruction of the nests by humans. The farmers that join the protocol will be provided with a kit by LIPU which will include nest boxes and feeders and there will also be compensation for the farmers that join the scheme to maintain the meadows for the long term.

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HUNTING

Danilo Selvaggi

It was a celebration rather than a protest with LIPU flags, members, activists, testimonials, politicians and journalists along with other associations and the general public. Everyone was in Piazza Montecitorio on April 22-23 when the House voted Article 42 of the Community Law and with it the absurd proposal to remove the time frame of September 1- January 31 as the limit for the hunting season. In essence, the possibility is for the regions to hunt also in August and February if not in July and March.

The blitz of hunting with no limits

Approved by the Senate, this ‘umpteenth’ blitz by pro-hunting MPs, Article 42, signalled both the simultaneous difficulty and arrogance of the political world that supports ‘wild hunting’.
It recognises the great difficulties in the design of the Orsi law for the liberalisation of hunting, which is contested by all, and is weighed down by nearly two thousand amendments. The pro-hunters have tried to slip in a short-cut, a ‘leggina’ (a little law), into Community Law 2009 with which to gain an extension of the already long hunting season.

It is adding insult to injury seeing that Europe is asking Italy for the opposite – to increase the care of wild birds and reduce hunting.

LIPU amendments agreed

So it was yet another challenge for LIPU and the world environmentalists, with press releases, contacts with ministers and MPs, compiling and amending dossiers to put before the Chamber of Deputies in the final hours of voting.

And the outcome of this is the almost complete reversal of the amendment, with the Agriculture Commission already accepting most of our requests. The result is an article of law that cancels nearly all the normal ‘hunting no limits’ and responds to many of the objections advanced by Europe against the ‘bad hunting’ inserted into Italian law, in a series of important, caring regulations.

The disappointment of the pro-hunting MPs has added to the satisfaction of a group (the opposition and majority together, including the Honorable Catanoso, Cenni, Ceccacca Rubino, Ciammanco, Zamparutti, Borghesi) and even some Ministers such as the Minister of the Environment, Prestigiacomo and of Tourism, Brambilla, that have reinforced the idea of the strong political opposition to the wild hunting that we have successfully created.

Reducing the huntable species and the hunting season

With Article 42 of the Community Law, the law 157/1992 is at this point, changed completely. In the box below you can read in detail the greatest improvements (and also the worst, though these are very limited) which now must be applied. Recently, LIPU has compiled a detailed document signed by various other associations requesting that all the Italian regions rapidly implement the new rules.

But perhaps what counts most is the general impetus that the Community Law has given to our activities. It opens, with this new law, a new and strong front that can ask for the reduction of the huntable species and the shortening of the hunting season for the protection of animals during their most vulnerable biological times. It is a sound concept and a strong legal precedent.

The campaign against the wild hunting continues, certainly. But meanwhile, thanks must go to LIPU, and everyone that has supported us, in winning this most important battle.

What does Article 42 say?

The Good:

The Bad:

TEENAGERS AND NATURE: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE?

Chiara Manghetti and Livia Speranza, Education Office

Our society very often depicts the world of adolescents in terms of negative incidents in which they are the main participants, such as acts of vandalism or violence, and far less often in terms of their ability to make a positive contribution to society. After school, what can we offer our teenagers that will not only instil positive values in them, but above all, let those qualities come through in practice? Where now in our present society is there space for them to meet, to cultivate new interests, to discover and follow new passions? Such a void will too often be filled by destructive behaviour, not only towards nature, by rejection or mere indifference, but also towards society in the form of bullying and violence towards its weaker members.

Working parties for Nature – a programme to be developed in LIPU Oases

Many studies have shown that working together in the natural environment increases the awareness of, and respect for, that which appears to be new or different and reinforces confidence and self-esteem.

Following on from these considerations, born out of a meeting between the LIPU education office and workers from the LIPU Oases, the idea came up of a project which would follow children, outside the context of formal education, for a period of a year with the possibility of further extension. What could be a better place to find oneself in than a LIPU Oasis? And what better mentors could young people find than the volunteers and workers of the Oases?

The project as it is conceived, aims to have the youngsters following a well-defined course which will lead them through various stages of cultural, and above all personal growth, through practical activities in Nature. These will increase in difficulty for each task, a methodology based on outdoor education (formative experience through Nature), founded on the conviction that intense life experiences in the natural environment increase the self-esteem of the young and their capacity to meet the challenges of life.

The method of broadening the focus of children from a stand-alone experience (one-off activities in Nature) to situations in their daily lives, makes the learning practical and relevant. A number of studies made in the USA and UK have clearly shown the benefits of this methodology to motivation and self-esteem and bear witness that outdoor education should have a central part in the development of children throughout adolescence.

The strategy provides for an initial phase with activities that help the young to gain familiarity with the environment, developing into phases that include team building activities and practical work in the Oases, taking on increasing responsibilities so as to be able to work independently and responsibly at other environmental tasks.

Furthermore, in parallel with this course of development, the young will also take shape as naturalists, learning to recognise and evaluate their own landscape. The landscape that the children learn to understand is not only that of the environment in the narrow sense, but that of the factors (such as public bodies, the worlds of education and interest groups) which act upon it so that they will be able, in an informal context, to exchange ideas and conduct dialogues with these entities as equals. They in turn will be able to pass on their knowledge to those coming up behind them, working independently and through their creativity and vision, to further the activities of the Oases.

The “Go Green” project at Oasi Bosco Negri

This project has taken part up to now only at the Bosco Negri Oasis where, under the title “Go Green”, one finds a group of children from Pavia, organising theatrical performances, guided tours, and even a little fund-raising. In this Oasis, the project has also become of value in the area of cultural integration, as concepts of multiculturalism are also raised through the presence in the groups of children of different ethnic backgrounds.

Similar projects have been tried in the Castel di Guido and Crava Morozzo Oases with excellent results. The idea is to spread similarly structured projects throughout the LIPU Oases in the next few years and to demonstrate that as well as having a fundamental role in nature conservation, the Oases can also play a part in the social development of our country.

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STRAITS OF MESSINA – PROJECT ‘MIGRATORY BIRDS OF PREY’ COMPLETED

Twenty-eight thousand birds of prey belonging to 24 species have been observed, as well as 107 White and Black Storks and several other rare varieties. Yet, besides those admiring the nature, there are some shooting at it. The estimate by the Migratory Birds of Prey Project and the 26th Anti Poaching Camp, both promoted by LIPU during April and May 2010, is that about 400 Honey Buzzards and other birds have been shot down on the Calabrian side of the Messina Strait.

Twelve observers have been working for a month in 5 locations around the Sicilian Coast (Pantelleria, Messina Strait, Marettimo, Ustica and Panarea) to understand better the path followed by the birds of prey in the Central Mediterranean area, along with the weather conditions affecting this phenomenon.

Honey Buzzards represent over 26,000 (92%) of the birds observed, followed by 992 Marsh Harriers and 471 Black Kites – the highest level of migration was reached on 30th April this year, when over 5,541 Honey Buzzards crossed the Strait.

The Migratory Birds of Prey project, promoted by LIPU and funded by LIPU-UK, aims at preventing poaching, particularly of Honey Buzzards, on the Calabrian side of the Strait. Thanks to the information available concerning these birds’ paths and the consistency of their migration, often influenced by the direction and the strength of the wind, the local camp coordinator can optimise the area surveillance thereby making the birds’ journeys as safe as possible.
Nonetheless, once across the Strait, 400 of the Honey Buzzards flying over were killed by gunshots. “This happened for two reasons”, said Fulvio Mamone Capria, vice-president LIPU. “Firstly, because of the limited service provided by the Anti Poaching Unit, part of the State Forest Guard, some crucial periods of the migration are omitted; secondly, the hours of surveillance are fixed, allowing poachers to be aware of the times within which they can operate.”

During the anti-poaching camp, three clandestine weapons with scratched-out serial numbers have been found, along with hundreds of buried cartridges ready to be used. “A big thank you goes to the State Forest Guards”, concludes Mr Mamone Capria, “without whom we would not have been able to reduce poaching on the Messina Strait over the years. Yet, we need a new strategy for 2011 to protect our birds – more flexible shifts, more undercover guards and thorough surveillance for at least 40 days.”

During the project, some rare species have been observed: 8 Griffon Vultures, whose number in Italy is reduced to 40 pairs; 2 of the 5 Lesser Spotted Eagles which can be observed every year, a species wintering in sub-Saharan Africa and nesting in Eastern Europe; an Imperial Eagle, of which only 1-3 can be found in Italy, nesting in Eastern Europe and wintering in Eastern Africa, finally, 2 Long-legged Buzzards and 28 Black Storks.

A TOUR OF LIPU RESERVES

By Ugo Faralli, Head of Oases and Reserves

Whether you are looking for a long walk or a short one, a boat trip or a lazy seat by the river, from North to South, from sea to mountain and the hills in between – LIPU oases have a lot to offer. No, this isn’t the Italian Tourist Board, it’s an invitation to LIPU members, and all who care passionately about nature, to connect directly with birds and with wildlife.

Let’s make a tour starting with two islands at the opposite ends of Italy. The first is near Venice (Ca’ Roman), where the beaches and dunes play host to Little Tern and Nightjar, Scops Owl and many interesting beetles. The second is not far from Palermo (Isola delle Femmine), a dome rising from the sea, cut in two by the criss-cross flight of thousands of gulls.

But our star is the rocky coastline at Carloforte, six unspoilt kilometres on the west side of San Pietro, a small island off Sardinia. There is only a disused lighthouse and two wooden buildings: the visitor centre at Capo Sandalo, and the six-bed hostel situated at the breathtakingly beautiful Cala Fico. You can stay here as a volunteer between July and September, taking part in the field studies of Eleonora’s Falcon. Wake up 20 yards from the shoreline – the scent of Myrtle and Mastic in the air, the song of Dartford Warblers, falcons chasing away the Ravens. Explore the trails – Peregrine, Sardinian Painted Frogs, macchia and gariga – an almost lunar habitat, typical of Sardinia.

Leaving the coast and heading inland on the mainland, there are oases nestled in the hills. Arcola, in the Park of Montemarcello-Magra, Liguria, has a newly-opened visitor centre and a network of paths which explore life along the river. Brightly coloured Bee-eaters, Painted Lady butterflies, Cetti’s Warbler can all be seen here.

The reserve at Chiarone (LIPU Oasis Massaciuccoli, Tuscany) has another beautiful visitor centre, a multimedia museum of wetland, and the chance to explore the marshes by small boat or kayak. See Little Bittern close up, Purple Heron, Marsh Harrier, as well as the inhabitants of reedbeds such as Moustached Warbler, Reed Warbler and Great Reed Warbler. A wooden walkway leads right into the heart of the reedbeds and on to the hides. Dragonflies are everywhere. For children, the reserve holds summer camps.

Before we leave the hills, let’s visit two more oases. The first, at Casacalenda in Molise, is the greenest and lushest woodland, home to Honey Buzzards, Spectacled Salamander and tens of species of moth. The oasis has an ecological education centre for children and their families to explore and learn about nature. The second at Laterza in Apulia, is set in the Park of the Gravine – an area of outstanding geological and archeological beauty. The oasis itself is a spectacular 8 kilometre long canyon with rocky sides reaching heights of 150 metres. This area is a haven for a variety of birds of prey, including Lesser Kestrel, Lanner Falcon and sometimes Egyptian Vulture. The visitor centre has a video room and a walkway to the viewpoint. For the energetic, a longer trail offers the chance to see Blue Rock Thrush, Leopard Snake, and after sunset, a myriad of bats.
Moving further inland, we arrive in the mountains. First the foothills, where we find the reserves of Crava Morozzo in Piedmont and Palude Brabbia on the shores of Lake Varese in Lombardy. Crava boasts a beautiful visitor centre and many hides, including one specially set below water level so that you can observe submerged frogs and Kingfishers. The hostel in the Park of Alta Valle Pesio is surrounded by a network of trails with display panels and games for the children. Newly opened, the Nature Art Centre for Contemporary Art offers summer courses in photography, painting and illustration. Palude Brabbia boasts a floating hide, reachable only by boat, from where you can scan the large expanse of Water Lilies for frogs, Water Rail, herons and Black Kite.

Higher still, at over 1,000 metres altitude, the glacial hollow of Montecatino (Tuscany) contains a handful of stone buildings, formerly used by herdsmen and their sheep. One of these is now the visitor centre for Monte Roccandagia nature reserve. A trail rises straight from the doorstep to the hermitage of San Viano, a good place for Golden Eagle, Alpine Chough, Water Pipit and Rock Thrush. The presence of moss, lichen, salamander and a variety of orchids adds to a place so beautiful that it literally takes your breath away.

LIPU reserves have long been places where people and nature can meet. Year after year, as resources allow, we have improved our oases and reserves with new facilities for visitors – nature trails, walkways, hides, displays, visitor centres, and much more. These are improvements that make our oases and reserves better places for both people and wildlife.

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NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

Despite the sadness of the events of this issue, we in this country, have cause for a small celebration this summer. Firstly, LIPU-UK comes of age this year, we were founded by Roger and Jill Jordan 21 years ago in 1989 – and who would have guessed then what the future would hold.

It seems only yesterday, but it is now ten years since we were granted charitable status by the Charity Commission and four of our founding trustees are still serving on the board, more of that later. The regulation which follows registration is no bad thing and the extra administrative burden is not great. In exchange for that, one of the advantages is the eligibility of the Gift Aid scheme which has been worth around £75,000 to us in the last ten years.

In those ten years we have steadily increased our support for our friends in Italy. Each year we pay to Head Office a large proportion of our subscription income, but in addition to that, we commit to raising funds to support projects in Italy which would simply not go ahead without our help. Ten years ago, in the days of Italian Lire, we sent the equivalent of £24,000 for projects, this year it will be just short of £60,000 including the membership contribution of £8,500.

Despite these increases, we have had some extraordinarily successful years and as a result the Oasi Fund has also grown steadily, before interest rates plummeted this was bringing in sufficient income to fund major projects! Of course, it’s much more modest now but if we add up the money sent to Italy over that last 21 years and add in the value of the Oasi Fund we can be very proud of the fact that we have raised and committed a million pounds for conservation in Italy.

THANK YOU ALL

The recession is, of course, affecting us all and for the last couple of years I think we have been very fortunate to have maintained and just met our funding targets and, again, it is only because of the generosity and loyalty of you, our members and friends, that this has been possible.

However, the subscription for members in Italy is now €25 and that suggests that we should also consider an increase. We have decided to defer any such thing because it is clear that, for some members, it would not be easy to afford any increase, despite the fact that we must be one of the least expensive organisations in the field. May I ask those who can afford it to consider the £15 subscription a minimum figure and add a little more at renewal time, if that is possible?

For my part, I continue to be a true Yorkshireman and my trustees know that my control of costs in the running of LIPU-UK is almost obsessive. I apply the criterion I wish many of our public figures would also use – “Would I spend money in this way if it was my own?”

Postage is one of our major expenses and rises by more than inflation every year, may I ask once more, that those who can access the Internet consider receiving publications on-line twice a year? Your email address is safe with me, I will not sell it or give it to anyone else.
Another very effective cost saving is having membership renewals by Bankers’ Order – no reminders have to be sent and the saving in time is also very noticeable. I shall reduce costs in our Annual Draw this year and could do so further if I did not send tickets to those who do not wish to receive them, so if you receive tickets when you’d rather not please let me know and I’ll save on printing and postage.

It is clear that the next years are not going to be easy for anyone, and the stress on all of us will mean that charities will find it harder and harder to maintain the income levels of the last decade. Despite that, the need is still there, the trappers are still catching birds, the hunters are still shooting them and LIPU and similar organisations are all that there is between the sinners and the sinned. Please don’t give up on us if you can possibly avoid it.

A CAUTIONARY TALE

I think I have mentioned in the past that your Board of Trustees has decided against actively soliciting the membership for legacies. Having said that, we are always extremely grateful if LIPU-UK enjoys a bequest from the estate of a deceased supporter. However, there is a salutary tale to tell as LIPU-UK was one of a number of beneficiaries in the estate of one our loyal supporters (the majority of the other beneficiaries were well known national charities). The “active” executor was a firm of solicitors based in the City of London, with offices in Basingstoke and Godalming. The value of the estate was about £300,000 (principally a residential property) on which the fees for undertaking the executorship were almost £27,000! Representations by a Legal Officer of a major national charity, on behalf of all beneficiaries, about the massive fee did not result in any reduction. In fact, to make matters worse, when the solicitors were advised of an error in their accounts, they then charged almost £2,000 for correcting them.

The lesson must surely be that one should try to establish the likely level of fees your proposed executor would charge for undertaking that role and, ideally, agree a cap on the fees that could be charged without having to obtain the agreement of the majority of beneficiaries if a higher fee was to be sought.

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COULD YOU HELP LIPU-UK?

A warm welcome goes to two new members of our team of translators, Giusy and Gaia whose piece on the Golden Eagle project will appear in the next issue. Their help is truly appreciated.

Help will inevitably be needed in another area as time goes by, and that is our Board of Trustees, whose average age is now nearer 70 than 60! We really do need a board which reflects the views and age groups of our members and I’m sure that not all of our readers are pensioners. Please ask yourself if you could help here and if so, call me for more information with no commitment on your part.

The board meets three times a year on the shores of Rutland Water and, I promise, the duties are not arduous, but are vital to our continued operation.

TAIL FEATHERS

As you know we committed to major project funding last Autumn but, since then, other worthy causes have appeared which we are happy to support. Oasi Carloforte has an urgent need for new display panels before the visitors arrive this Summer.

Traditionally, the volunteers who take part in the anti-poaching camps have made their own way to Calabria, Sicily or Sardinia. We felt that this dedication deserves recognition in a practical way and we have offered to pay the travelling expenses of these wonderful people. These two items will cost, together, just €2,500 and I am sure you will agree that this is worthwhile – it takes the level of support for 2009-10 to €70,000 – a superb effort, thank you all for making it possible.

My thanks go, as always to the team of translators who, for this issue, were: Cicely Adelson, Carol Debney, Giusy Fazzina, Tony Harris, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty, Gaia Tocci and John Walder.

Line drawings are used in the issue with the kind permission of the RSPB. Photos by Andrea Mazza and David Lingard.

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