Ali - March 2006

Editorial March 2006

The Miracle of bird migration

It is dangerous to talk of changes in things as huge as the climate or the environment on the basis of just a few years experience but I cannot see how climate change can be denied.

Our migrating birds have been arriving and nesting a little earlier over the last few decades and this always causes me to wonder at how these, usually tiny, creatures know when it is right to set off to our country.

One of the great mysteries of bird migration was shown to me in 1992 when I was lucky to be in Alaska at the beginning of April. It was still in winter's firm grip with daytime temperatures no higher than -10°C. The locals were all saying that it was the latest spring they could remember - but they always say that don't they? For five days we walked on snow, ice and earth as hard as iron and then, suddenly, in the space of 8 hours the temperature rose to +10° and then +20° and this was hailed as the shortest spring in memory because these numbers said, clearly, "Summer!"

The following day the air was full of birds, the ice had melted just enough to allow huge flocks of waders to gather and there were geese everywhere - so how did they know that Alaska would be open for business on that day?

In this country I have a personal event which decides, for me, the first day of Spring - it's when I hear my first Chiffchaff and when its cousin, the Willow Warbler, starts to sing I start to think that, perhaps, the winter really is over for another year. The last three years have seen my first Chiffchaff records on the 10th, 12th and 9th of March but, this year, because of the prolonged cold northerly winds they were on the last day of the month and they have all arrived together!

This morning, we were walking and birdwatching, when I should have been preparing this edition of the Ali, and we saw Sand Martins, Swallows and the Willow Warblers were singing alongside the Chiffchaffs - so once again the migration is in full swing as the early arrivals reach their breeding grounds.

Soon to follow will be the larger birds and they will be moving north from Africa now, many thousands will be crossing from Cape Bon in Tunisia to Sicily and then to mainland Italy for their long annual journey. With a little luck and a lot of hard work by LIPU volunteers and the Forest Guards they will have a safe journey without the dreadful shootings of previous years.

This work has been supported for years by LIPU-UK and we can feel as if we are achieving real success at last, their will be little drama as the harriers, storks and Honey Buzzards by the thousand cross the Messina Strait without interference. The work must continue but, for now, we can feel proud of the anti-poaching work of LIPU - thank you all.

FROM THE PRESIDENT OF LIPU

by Giuliano Tallone

Those who would like to say yes.

What unites a Blackcap flight to the battle against MoSE (the system of barriers that stop high waters from flooding Venice, and that, according to environmentalists, is destroying the lagoon biodiversity)? The ideal of a world (and country) where development can coexist in harmony with nature, where nature reserves and parks take the place of "majestic" but useless and devastating works.

Spring is on our doorstep, and our feathered friends remind us of the beauty of nature with their songs. However, when we go birdwatching, are we certain of taking part in an environmentally friendly activity? In order to get to the spot where we intend to watch birds, we may use a car. This is a build up to an ecological "debt", because cars need petrol, which is produced by factories that will have released CO2 into the atmosphere. The same argument can be made for the production of our pair of binoculars, field guide (which is made of paper and ink), etc.

This thought-provoking introduction allows me to introduce the topic of sustainable development, which is a difficult goal for human activities. Today, people try to avoid the word "development", because further increases in production, the number of consumers, and in the use of non-renewable resources does not seem possible. It is therefore even more important to talk about "sustainability" and "decreased use" when referring to the global ecological problems that our generation has to face. Sustainability can be defined as a way of life orientated towards quality rather than quantity of the resources we use.

Even we, LIPU members, base our reasons on untouchable values, such as the pleasure of watching flamingos in a lagoon, the importance of a nature reserve for birds, the satisfaction of rescuing, in one of our centres, a kestrel that has been shot. In political terms, our aim becomes to obtain laws that are more conservation oriented, a network of nature reserves to protect species, habitats and landscapes, and to be sure that poachers stop being a threat to eagles, herons, and storks.

We are not, contrary to what some people say, "those that only say no". However, we find the investment of thousands of millions of Euros, public money, in huge and useless projects such as the bridge on the Messina strait, or the MoSE in Venice, or the TAV extremely wrong. (TAV is the high speed train that should connect Italy to France. Fierce debate has been taking place in Italy, because the proposed project would destroy the areas of mountains where the gallery should be excavated, also producing by-products that are environmentally damaging.) The big projects that we would like to see carried out by the next Government, whether Left or Right, are the Rete Natura 2000 (Nature Network 2000), the network of regional and national natural parks, restoration projects, the care of the Italian landscape which would also defend international tourism, and the co-operation of the Southern Hemisphere, where biodiversity is richer and concentrated. We believe that the culture of quality and responsibility for the environment still has too many enemies in Italy.

We have presented our ideas and projects on the basis of this vision to all political parties, with the nearing of the next general elections: we will give our support to any political party, as long as they show a real disposition to address these issues.

Finally, we underline a very important opportunity for our association. With the latest government budget, if many, many members declare their preference for LIPU in the "5 per 1000" (gift aid), we will have the opportunity to have new resources for our projects. Please help us reach this goal: blackcaps and robins will truly thank you.

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ENVIRONMENT - "A PROBLEM TO RESOLVE"

by Danilo Selvaggi

With 2005, a year particularly fraught in environmental events, the second legislative programme of the Berlusconi Government also comes to an end. With the next election, and whoever emerges the winner, will begin a series of events, which, one way or another, will be different from the preceding one. But what is the "ecological" balance-sheet of this programme? How has the outgoing government worked from the environmental point of view? Let us try to remind ourselves of some of the main facts, events and warnings.

Environmental Delegated Law

Let us begin with the much-discussed Environmental Delegated Law, or really, the authorisation that Parliament gave the Government to change, review, "re-order" all environmental matters. It came into force in December 2004, after a long and exhausting parliamentary battle. Environmental and consumer associations, parliamentary forces, experts, mayoral seals, and ultimately, Regions and various local bodies firmly resisted a provision of which the merits and methods were often criticised. The question we have put many times to the Government is this: is it possible, just or advisable, to change the entire environmental legislation (on refuse, impact assessment, environmental damage, water etc.,) without any debate on the substance of the decision taken or about to be taken? Without any meeting with those same Associations (as provided nevertheless by an article of that same law?) Without any real consideration of the problems seizing the environment and nature in Italy? Italy has laws available, (think of 394/91 and 157/92), and thus has the serious problem of applying them correctly. But on the contrary, the direction taken by the Government with the Delegated Law and its allied provisions (which will be concerned with all environmental matters except parks and hunting, which it seems will remain outside) seems to be to trivialise the provisions, to put off problems, to distance concepts of obligation and public good. Not "Let us resolve environmental problems", but "The environment is a problem; let us resolve it". So the Delegated Law has appeared to us, and to the majority of those concerned.

Hunting and Protection of Wild Animals

The legislation of 2001 - 5 has also been hardest in the matter of hunting and the protection of wild animals. These years began badly with approval of Laws 221 of 2002, which delegated to the Regions the conduct of derogation, but thanks to the tireless activities of LIPU and other organisations, ended with a securely positive balance: the battle against "hunting in the wild" has been won, the so-called Onnis Text modifying 157/92, which safeguards fauna and regulates hunting, has remained in place. The Alemanno Bill has been withdrawn, and the outcome for all other attempts, extreme or whimsical, to depreciate the national laws safeguarding wild animals, was the same. But there had been a real risk that Italy could return to the old times, to springtime hunting, to ancient hunting traditions, to animals as "res nullius", nobody's property at the disposition of anybody. From that moment arose one of the most bitter attacks of these last years, with 12 Bills put to the Chamber of Deputies, aimed at making law that would dismantle Law 157, which, for all its limitations of implementation, and above all of application, today represents a meeting of diverse and opposed interests. If the "wild hunting party" had won, today we would have one of the worst laws in Europe, and the extraordinary biological bridge that is our country would be a great place to shoot migrating birds or endangered species. Instead, parliamentary hearings, meetings of the Agricultural Commission in the Chamber, communiqués, protests, technical dossiers, demonstrations, the 200,000 signatures collected by LIPU, all this has defeated the attempt at "wild hunting".

Great Works

The Bridge over the Strait of Messina, the MoSE dam project in Venice, High Speed Rail: the legislature of 2001 - 5 has been one of great works being announced, but not (yet) realised. And a good thing too! Works whose utility has been many times discussed, with serious and detailed argument, so that the extremely high costs became evident, the unclear procedural mechanisms, the heavy burdens on the environment. What is necessary is to understand what purpose does a "great" work serve, what is the best means of realising it, and what should be avoided because, rather than benefit, it will cause positive harm. An example? The change of fortune of MoSE. We know well how much Venice has need of intervention, talked of for decades, to save her from high water. But what sort of intervention should it be? Is MoSE the right course? The answer is negative, and comes, among other things, from a study commissioned by the Commune of Venice and carried out by the most authoritative experts, according to whom, among the works proposed to save the city, MoSE is next to last in efficacy, but first in cost and environmental risk. However, the Government continues to insist on such schemes.

In addition, a renewed warming towards nuclear energy, the law of urban renewal, the attack on Parks and Protected Areas, attempts to sell beaches, uncertainty about Kyoto, grave shortages in the energy field, must result in a very negative judgement on these five years of "environmental" government. Some positive points, it must be said, have not been missed: the attempt, though failed, to insert environment and biodiversity into the Italian Constitution (article 9); approval of the law on maltreatment, which, with all its shortcomings, represented an uplifting event, the opposition of some majority Parliamentary members to some anti-environmental efforts (in point of fact hunting laws). But what remains, and in fact worries us, is the demonstration of a profound anti-ecological culture, a willingness to proceed against evidence, as if to harm the environment were a moral duty and a meritorious action. It is not so. It is exactly the opposite, and it is strikingly evident that in the 21st century that this fact has not been taken in. The catastrophic events of the tsunami and of New Orleans, the risks linked to avian flu and extreme methods of food over-production, the continuing loss of biodiversity, the dramas of climate and energy, press us to reverse the rot. The outgoing Government, however, has not done it. And the next?

Dear candidate, LIPU is writing to you ...

Protection of biodiversity and wildlife. Renewable energy. Ecological farming. These are LIPU's requests for the next government.

"To stop the decline of biodiversity by 2010 is the most important objective that Italy and Europe have committed to, and this must be followed through at once with strategy, action, and real programmes". This is the start of a letter that LIPU, under the signature of President Giuliano Tallone, has sent to Prime Ministerial candidates Berlusconi and Prodi, to the party leaders, to the environment spokesmen of all political parties, and to numerous other interested individuals and organisations. However, it is not just a letter. It is also a proposal for a complete and substantial programme in defence of biodiversity, appropriately named Countdown 2010. It is a strong call to those who will govern Italy to take environmental issues seriously, and to give them prominence in government policy.

The following is a brief extract from the election letter.

The Italian Government should:

LIVE DECOYS - A FIRST BAN

by Danilo Selvaggi and Michele Mendi

A tribunal in Parma passes the first sentence in Italy against live decoys. We hope this will encourage other provincial councils to follow.

3 February 2005 was a historic date for Italian environmentalists, especially those working against illegal hunting practices. On this day the provincial council of Parma passed a law without precedent in the rest of Italy, a ban on the use of live decoys for hunting purposes, effective throughout the province. The practice of live decoys involves the capture of small birds, which are kept in very small cages over the summer period with the aim of changing their normal life cycle. Finally taken out of doors in winter, the birds are conditioned to sing out of season when hunting is allowed. This "forced" singing serves to call birds of similar species, which are summarily killed the moment they approach. There is a lot more we could say about this shameful practice! And there remains much still to be done!

In Parma the people who took the matter in hand were Gabriella Meo, provincial councillor in charge of parks and the protection of biodiversity, and her close collaborators in the local LIPU branch, in particular Aurelio Calzi. However, even after the law had been passed, the hunting associations did not remain idle, taking repeated legal action in an attempt to overturn the measure. First they appealed to the TAR (regional tribunal) of Emilia Romagna, followed by a second appeal to the neighbouring TAR in Molise. In the end a judgement passed by the State Council (of 27/09/2005) proved definitive: the Parma decision was fully legitimate, and so live decoys are completely forbidden throughout the province.

Now, why is this story so important? The Parma administration made an enlightened choice against a hunting practice that should be considered anachronistic and barbaric. This revolutionary new law points the way forward at a national level. Live decoys, not covered by any European Community directive, should nonetheless be abolished everywhere, and LIPU will be asking the next Italian government to act. For the moment, LIPU wishes that the other Italian provincial councils would follow this lead, showing the same courage that Parma has done.

LIPU SPRING CAMPS

LIPU is once again organising spring camps in various parts of Italy.

20 April to 30 May. Observation and monitoring of migrating raptors on the promontory of Monte Conero (Ancona). The site is recognised as the second bottleneck for raptors in Italy, after the Strait of Messina. Information: Sezione LIPU Ancona; Norma Barbini; tel. 338/761069; lipuancona@yahoo.it

29 April to 14 May. Protection of raptors and storks on migration at the Strait of Messina. The camp is vegetarian. Participation free. Limited numbers, preference given to younger participants. Information: Sezione LIPU Reggio Calabria; tel. 329/4228623.

20 April, 21 May, 1 June in blocks of ten days. Protection of breeding Cory's Shearwaters on the Island of Linosa. Each ten-day period costs 190 Euros (170 for LIPU members), to include bed and breakfast. Information: Sezione LIPU Catania; tel. 329/4265503; lipuct@libero.it

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THE THIRD BIRDWATCHING FAIR

The International Po Delta Birdwatching Fair returns to Comacchio, an event that is dedicated to birdwatchers and to nature. It follows the enormous success of the 2005 Fair and takes place once again in the heart of the Po Delta Park. There will be stands for binoculars and telescopes, photographic equipment and other items for birdwatchers. There will be lectures and scientific seminars, workshops, excursions and sports meetings. It will be a quality event, catering not only for experts but also for anyone who desires to know more about birdwatching.

This year, more facilities are being devoted to teaching young people, with workshops and games under expert supervision. There will also be an important workshop for operators in the tourist industry who want to offer nature-oriented trips. The fair will also see the first European Birdwatching Competition, in collaboration with LIPU, where teams from various countries will compete in identifying birds of the Po Delta region.

LIPU will have its own stand and will run an educational workshop "Birdwatching and migration" and talks on theory and practice in the natural environment.

The Fair will also make a contribution to BirdLife International, by helping to finance a bird and nature protection project in China.

WHEN PASSION BECOMES SCIENCE

by Luca Baghino and Marco Gustin

"Project Beigua" on the migration of the Short-toed Eagle in Italy continues

A great number of birdwatchers and researchers met in Liguria, in the park of Beigua, to follow the migration of the fascinating Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus. This is testimony to the great commitment and passion of so many bird enthusiasts in the last few years.

Thanks to this wholly beneficial collaboration with the regional 'Parco del Beigua', LIPU has been able to revise data on the important "bottleneck" of Arenzano, the phenomenon of the migration of species of Annex 1 of the Birds Directive (79/409/CEE), focusing in particular on some raptor species such as the Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and the Short-toed Eagle.

In order to understand just what this means, one needs to take a look at the figures: during the monitoring period more than 1700 diurnal raptors were recorded, of which 1564 were Short-toed Eagle, whilst in a second assessment more than 6072 were Honey Buzzards. During the autumnal survey more than 800 diurnal raptors were seen, of which 683 Short-toed Eagles.

These results further confirm the importance at both national and continental level of the ZPS "Beigua-Turchino" and of the Arenzano site for both pre and post- breeding migration of this species.

It's also worth mentioning the great success of the public initiative Ebn-Italia and 'Parco del Monte Beigua', sponsored by LIPU, which took place during March. This was about the 4th and 5th edition of the 'Biancone-day', a day dedicated to the observation of the migration of raptors and Short-toed Eagles in particular. A great many birdwatchers arrived at the Park from Liguria as well as from other areas of Northern Italy, to admire for themselves the extraordinary aerial manoeuvres of migrating raptors.

Finally we must comment on the completion of the ornithological Centre in Vaccà. Thanks to the inauguration of this building last July, the tourist capacity of the Park of Beigua has grown and this is a great forward step in the effort to enhance this area of extraordinary beauty and naturalistic significance.

IN THE FRONT LINE AGAINST ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME

We have an opportunity to send a strong message against these crimes in area that has suffered for too long.

This year the LIPU National Assembly takes place on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples, a prime area for both poaching and illegal building developments. It will be different from other meetings because it will be aiming to put down a marker in an area where a small group of LIPU volunteers are engaged every year in trying to uphold the law, ready to sacrifice themselves in order to save the last pocket handkerchief of Mediterranean scrub and the cliffs and pine woods so vital for migrant birds.

The poachers' artillery claims tens of thousands of victims every year. Between April and June Quail and Turtle Doves, raptors and small birds are shot on Ischia, Capri and Procida, all important resting places for birds on migration. In the name of tradition and against the law this spring hunt defies the ethical and biological need to protect birds at this crucial time. During the migration the poachers intensify their activities with guns, nets and traps — every illegal method at their command. This violence involves crimes against public order and safety. LIPU, working with WWF, will be a presence on the island with an anti poaching camp and together with the National Assembly will develop ways to put a stop to the violation of the countryside, illegal building and fly tipping on the island

Another innovation is the programme for the first day of the assembly, which will not be scientific but about the environment and the law with high-level guests —magistrates and law officers. There will be LIPU volunteers, experts from the front line against environmental crime. Their presence will be a testimony to the difficulty of the daily struggle to get environmental laws respected. They will make clear the connection between fly tipping, illegal quarrying, poaching and trafficking in endangered species with organised crime which becomes involved in any activity, legal or illegal, to appropriate natural resources. Anyone who wishes to join the struggle to defend the environment sooner or later ends up dealing with the Mafia and the other criminal organisations which have possessed themselves of the air, water, and open spaces which belong to us all.

We want this convention to send out a clear message of hope. We shall look at the important investigations that have uncovered a huge traffic in hazardous waste and other environmental crimes.

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DOWN WITH A BOUT OF... BIRDWATCHING

by Marco Lambertini

A glance at the past and future of birdwatching in Italy and across the world.

There are people who maintain that we are sick with "biophilia". It isn't a matter of some modern supervirus, but a more gentle and profound illness: it is our curiosity about the natural world and its inhabitants. The cause is intricately connected with the history of man as far back as the era of the hunter-gatherers. Anyone who was not capable of observing and interpreting the natural world would go under. Modern history has perhaps made us lose our practical knowledge of nature, but it has not succeeded in changing our fascination with the natural world. But, let us not forget: curiosity is only the beginning of a cognitive and emotional process…the result of which can be a love of or aggression towards nature and wild things. Hence, of course the importance of education and of real life experience.

With these ethological and anthropological bases it is no marvel that an activity such as birdwatching should have today developed to such an extent. The more our life style isolates us from nature, the more we feel the need for contact with it. What is more, the recognition of species contains an element of competition with an intellectual side to it. Through out the world Birdwatching has developed with great rapidity: the RSPB in Great Britain numbers a million members; a study carried out by the American Fishery and Wildlife Service in 2003 has established that more than 60 million Americans have taken part in birdwatching activities during the course of that year. In 2001 more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on travel and equipment connected with the observation of wildlife in the United States, almost double that spent on hunting.

And what of Italy? Euro Bird Net has recently calculated in the low thousands the number of Italian birdwatchers. LIPU numbers more than 30 thousand members and they pay hundreds of thousands of visits every year to its Reserves and so it has organised the "Spring Alive" project for the spring of 2006 to observe birds on migration. The first two years of the Po Delta Birdwatching Fair have attracted 25 and 30 thousand visitors respectively.

It is, then, a question of definition. Certainly, the core of expert birdwatchers is less numerous in Italy than in other countries. In England for example I know of one who on the morning of his wedding preferred to pick up the message on his birding pager and dash out to the coast of Norfolk to see a rare passerine forced down there by a storm! But if we consider a birdwatcher to be anyone who has binoculars and bird guide, my estimate is of at least 100,000 birdwatchers in Italy.

There are two great challenges facing birdwatching, or rather organisations such as Birdlife, LIPU and others that support and encourage it. The first is to link the interest in observation to that of conservation. It is certain however that in Italy great progress has been made in this field. Birdwatching owes its spread in Italy to LIPU and WWF in the Seventies and to their respective pioneers and dedicated enthusiasts such as Fulco Pratesi and Francesco Mezzatesta, a spread later institutionalised again by the same two associations with specific campaigns, with the birth of the Reserves and with innumerable promotions. Over the same time span we have witnessed a collapse in the numbers of hunters: from almost 3 million in the early seventies to less than 600 thousand today!! Similarly, there has been an explosion in protected areas, from less than 3% to more than 15% of the national territory. The second challenge has been that of turning bird observation and conservation activities to the benefit of local communities. In Italy some of the best examples of this may be seen within the boundaries of various protected areas. The same should be happening everywhere. Abroad on the other hand, but above all in the tropics, groups of birdwatchers go with foreign companies and guides brought in from their own countries leaving far too little for the locals. Happily, there is a growing sensitivity among wildlife tourism agencies towards this problem and many organisations similar to LIPU in these developing countries support the training of local guides and the creation of accommodation infrastructures run by local people.

Italy is today a country where birds are doing better and are increasing. It is enough to check the numbers of wintering duck, once upon a time disturbed and hunted in the great majority of wetland areas that are today largely protected. It is enough to consider the spread of raptor species such as the Buzzard, the Kestrel and the Sparrowhawk that were once the object of thoughtless shooting. One might take symbolic species, highly sensitive to disturbance such as the Flamingo, which in a couple of decades has returned to nest in many coastal marshes of Italy. Without doubt all to the credit of birdwatching, or rather to that general cultural change which has produced the growth in bird watching.

There are still so many problems and challenges to be faced. We need to entrench that attitude of respect and observation, to increase the numbers of Italian birdwatchers and make them more expert. We must persevere with the message of conservation and love of nature and promote the idea of Italy as a haven of bird watching for the public of northern Europe. Initiatives such as the Po Delta Birdwatching Fair, thanks to its character and its international outlook, are an immensely effective way of overcoming these challenges and of moving into a second era of Italian bird watching. An old-timer such as myself, whose first professional contract in the field of nature conservation was as co-ordinator of LIPU's first bird watching campaign in 1980, who has seen this country change so much, cannot but be optimistic.

A last word of advice: take care of your "biophilia" by going out into the wild with your guide in your pocket and your "bins" round your neck!

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LEGAL ACTIONS

Operation Icarus in Naples

A vast web of dealings sustaining the cruel business of bird trapping has been cut through in the Naples area. Goldfinches, a species protected by law, were on sale at 5 to 2000 Euros, the price varying as to how good a songster was the captive bird. Operation Icarus, co-ordinated by the provincial commander of the Neapolitan Forest Rangers, Vincenzo Stabile, and LIPU delegate Fabio Procaccini, was the first action slated to confront the phenomenon of bird trapping and the illicit trade in wildlife. Forty forestry staff took part, helped by ten LIPU volunteers in sixteen raids over two months. 26 individuals were reported, and 1250 birds set free by schoolchildren. LIPU thanks all the forestry staff for their work and professionalism, and inspector Franco Nicodemi, who has the credit for the organisation of the operation.

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Brescia, 20 years in the face of poaching

LIPU's twentieth autumn campaign against poaching in the Brescia region has had important results. LIPU operatives, led by inspector Piergiorgio Candela, seized more than 5000 archetti and spring traps, 163 nets (mainly in private gardens), numerous cage traps and 39 metal nooses for killing roe deer and small mammals. Over a thousand Robins, Wrens and other protected birds were found in their death throes. Also seized were 435 birds used as live decoys. In all, there were 60 complaints notified by LIPU to the authorities for poaching and the keeping of wild birds, and several poachers were reported.

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LET US RECLAIM THE WATER!

by Martina Pignataro

Water is a necessity for all, but is in the hands of the few

Are you for water or the thieves of water? With this provocative question, the civic committees of hundreds of Campanian communes, fighting against water privatisation, are titling flyers, mailings and appeals. Nor does this concern Campania alone, but the whole planet. One and a half billion people are without clean water, while powerful multinationals are gathering ownership of the waters to themselves. Two sides of the same coin. While whole villages in Africa have to travel miles to the nearest well, and have to live in vile sanitary conditions, the big drinks companies fight over whole rivers and catchments to guarantee their profits, and take control over the expanding system of public aqueducts. A stealthier privatisation comes with the proliferation of bottled waters. In actual fact, mains water is the healthiest, save in a few well-certified cases, and is subject to stricter controls, while bottled water production creates serious damage in the depletion of water supplies and the pollution created by the production, transport, distribution and sale of billions of plastic bottles. There are goods and rights that cannot be trammelled by the rules of the market. Water is an inalienable right, access to which must be available equally to all. While people die for lack of clean water, those with free access often abuse it. The "developed" countries are making no progress towards the conscientious use of water. Agriculture makes untold hydrological demands, rather than use rain or grey water set aside as the opportunity presents itself. Environmental management of water as a resource is non existent: aquifers polluted by big infrastructural projects, river mouths overwhelmed by marinas and seas fouled by uncontrolled industrial dumping are but a few examples of the day-to-day environmental damage given the nod by complacent authority, only occasionally held up by justified popular protests. LIPU itself is often in the front line of various actions brought together to safeguard the planet: in the Val di Susa against the high-speed train link, in the Metapontina against the Porto degli Argonauti and the concreting over of the coast, against the Moses project of Venice and the tourist megavillages of Calabria.

We can put ourselves out of danger of these privatisations and look actively to the vicissitudes of water whether by regularising our own consumption and not buying bottled water, or by joining with the local public bodies to keep water in public ownership, or to return it.

From March 10-12 2006, in Rome, is being held the first Italian Forum for Water Movement, which seeks to be a time of facing up to the various forces in play, so that water can remain a common good and its management remain in public hands. It aims to set out a law by popular initiative to return water to public ownership and to set up a permanent national commission to launch an international campaign to guarantee equal access to water for all. Initiatives which start at the bottom and involve all citizens, because water is a right not for sale.

News from LIPU-UK

A QUESTION FOR YOU

LIPU-UK has been able to run its operations economically for a number of reasons and, because of that success, has been able to call for only one modest subscription increase in the 17 years of our existence.

However, despite rigorous cost control we are faced with some unpalatable price rises this year and the last thing I want to do is increase the price of membership.

Our postage will have risen by two pence when you read this and, after printing the newsletter this is our highest expense. Worse is to come because in August the cost of mail will be determined on size as well as weight. If we make no changes the postage for this newsletter will rise to 37 pence because of its size.

To keep postage costs at the present level we can reduce the size to A5 which can be done in two ways. We can either continue with the Ali as it is but fold it once to fit into a smaller envelope, or we can print it as an A5 booklet.

I'd be grateful for your thoughts, the change will have to take place for the September issue, thank you.

I hope you think that my aggressive cost control is not a waste of time because it seems to me that every penny cut from costs can be spent on conservation and that should always be our aim.

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HOW CAN YOU HELP?

There are a few ways in which you can help save costs and most of you do all this already, but if I might offer just a few thoughts:

Please consider a Bankers Order for your subscription renewal, a third of you do so and find it very convenient and, once set up, there is the need for no more renewal reminders.

If you pay UK tax and have not returned a Gift Aid declaration please do so - it's Free Money from Gordon Brown and is worth over £8000 a year - enough to fund one of our major projects. If I don't send you a form with your renewal letter it means I already have one on file for you.

If you are receiving "extras" such as the Ali in Italian, please remember the extra costs and perhaps, consider a little extra at renewal time - or there is always our annual appeal...

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2006 ANNUAL APPEAL

Thank you all for your splendid support for this year's appeal, we have raised a little more than the average of the last five years. If it's "slipped through the cracks" please don't worry we're still open for business and any contributions are still very welcome.

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FUTURE PLANS

Already I'm looking to 2007 and have in mind a couple of breaks with tradition. It's nothing too dramatic but the question was asked this year as to why we have the annual appeal just after the expense of Christmas.

The response of, "It's always been in January." isn't the best justification and the winter newsletter should really be with you in December so, next year there will be an Ali in December and the Hoopoe, carrying the annual appeal will be published in March. To even out the year, tickets for the Annual Draw will be sent with the September issue and the draw will take place at the end of the year.

I hope these changes will make life easier for those facing the unwelcome things of the new year like income tax demands and other nasty bills!

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BOOK REVIEW

I am often asked to recommend a field guide to help the bird watcher visiting Italy and for some years there was an easy answer, the Helm guide, "Where to watch birds in Italy" which was prepared by LIPU staff in 1994.

Sadly, it has been out of print for some time now, so it was with great pleasure that I received a copy of "A birdwatchers guide to Italy", recently published by Lynx Edicions, in Barcelona but before turning to the book I think a few words about Lynx are interesting.

In the 1970s Josep del Hoyo was a doctor in Catalonia and a man completely hooked on birds. He became a writer and broadcaster after a birding trip to Africa. He had found there were no good books covering the birds he saw there and his dream was born - to produce a guide to all the birds of the world.

By 1987 he had a plan, a few friends and a little backing but no publisher would do it the way he wanted, so he set up Lynx Edicions to produce what has become a famous series of books - HBW, or Handbook of the Birds of the World.

Twelve volumes were planned and as each was released it was greeted with critical acclaim the world over - this was the new standard that others would be measured against!

It soon became clear that more volumes would be needed if the quality was not to be reduced and subscribers were asked for their opinion - I was one of the majority who voted to keep the highest standards and accept that my set will not be complete for another six years. This project is so good it is hard to find the right superlatives, this is no mere coffee table set, neither is it a handbook - the coffee table needs to be a strong one!

Now, back to my review - Lynx Edicions has found the time between editions of HBW to produce other books on the theme of nature.

A Birdwatcher's Guide to Italy is written by Luciano Ruggieri and Igor Festari and approaches the topic from two directions, the bird and the location.

We have a list of the most important Italian species with a detailed description including population estimates, status and distribution, habitat and then where to go to see the bird.

The second part of the book is titled, "The Most Important Italian Hot Spots; Detailed Accounts" and lists 100 sites across the country each with the birds to be expected, and when, the habitat, how to get there and a detailed description of the site.

Detailed appendices balance an interesting and useful introduction. I found myself reading the book for its content which is well researched and presented, I look forward to using it in the field - a splendid addition to my bookshelf.

Lynx Edicions books are available direct from the publishers who are at www.hbw.com or, if you prefer shopping locally they are stocked by, among others, Subbuteo Natural History Books, 0870 010 9700, for £17.50 or on line at www.wildlifebooks.com

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STILL ON PAPER...

How green are we in LIPU-UK? Few could be more concerned about man's effect of the planet we rent than I and the question of using recycled paper is one I cannot dodge.

We don't use recycled paper to produce this newsletter, primarily because it is much more expensive than the freshly milled product. This means that more of the funds we raise can be devoted to the protection of birds and that is our stated aim.

However, that doesn't mean we don't care and haven't looked at the effects on nature and the environment of our newsletters.

The paper our printer uses is grown from coppiced eucalyptus plantations and is in accordance with Forest Stewardship Council standards. We are definitely not the cause of tropical forests being felled and I am told that the water discharged into the river at the paper mill is cleaner than when it was taken from the river.

Now, I know this is a very emotive subject and, perhaps, it will start a debate, but I've always offered to print members' letters in the Ali and I will if you have any strong feelings.

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ANNUAL DRAW 2005

Those who took part in last year's draw will be interested to read the comments of Jim Sutherland of East Renfrewshire. Jim won the fantastic prize of a pair of top quality binoculars which were very kindly donated by Zeiss UK.

Jim says, "...They arrived on 5th January and I have been able to try them out over the past two weekends.

On opening the package I was impressed with the compactness of the binoculars and with their very light weight. On trying them out at Selkirk (in the Scottish Borders), Vane Farm reserve and my local patch, I have been very impressed with their clarity, particularly in poor light conditions. As a spectacle wearer I was pleased to note that field of view is the same whether or not I am wearing glasses - a great improvement over my present pair.

To paraphrase the footballing fraternity, I am delighted with my prize and would like to thank LIPU for making it possible for me to own such a brilliant pair of binoculars. When I purchased the raffle tickets, along with my subscription, it never occurred to me that I would be amongst the winners, let alone win the first prize.

Thank you very much for a wonderful Christmas present. I hope the raffle succeeded in raising additional funds to assist our friends in Italy in their fight against the illegal hunting of wild birds..."

Thank you, Jim, I'm glad you liked your prize and, yes, the draw was a success with another £2000 raised to help the birds.

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HELP THE EDITOR (Please)

One of my tasks is the production of this newsletter and it is a great pleasure to do so. It's important to me to try to make it read well, be interesting and, above all, be good value for money.

After all, what do you get for your subscription apart from the knowledge that you are doing something important and the four newsletters we send out each year?

I always aim to produce sixteen pages and it is usually easy, but this time the news from Italy has been a little on the slim side and I would have loved to have had quite a lot more!

Please consider writing a short account of anything you do or anywhere you go which might be interesting to other readers. Birdwatching trips, at home or abroad are often a lot more interesting to others than you may think. I'd love to have some articles "in the bag" for future use.

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LIPU-UK ANNUAL REPORT FOR THE YEAR TO 30 JUNE 2005

LIPU-UK, c/o Fernwood, Doddington Road, Whisby, Lincs, LN6 9BX is registered with the Charity Commission (No 1081826).

The charity is administered by an Executive Committee, the members of which are:

Chairman Mr. Joseph Fleming FCIB
Treasurer/Secretary

Mr David Lingard

Members Mrs Carol Debney

Mr Barry Fantoni

Mr Tony Gdula

Mrs Shirley Lingard

In the year under review Mr and Mrs Berry had retired from the committee and had been replaced by Barry Fantoni and Tony Gdula who had both volunteered to become trustees. The board wishes to place on record its appreciation of the work done by Mike and Christine Berry, in particular the organisation of the annual draw since its reintroduction.

The primary objective of LIPU-UK is to further the bird protection and conservation activities of Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli (LIPU) by making financial grants or by providing such other assistance to LIPU as the Executive Committee deems appropriate and necessary.

LIPU-UK is run on a voluntary basis and has no paid employees.

Finance LIPU-UK enjoyed an exceptionally successful year in financial terms, as a result of very generous legacies the total funds raised exceeded £128,400. However, without legacies this the year was still an improvement on the one before, with an increase in income of £1700.

Costs were reduced compared with 2003-04 because the recruitment campaign of the previous year was not repeated, furthermore, although not a cost the Business Reserve was reduced to £2000 after the annual review.

As a result of this strong financial situation the projects to which we had committed our support were achieved and the residue was directed to the benefit of the Oasi Fund which at the year end held the sum of £176,800.

Reserves LIPU-UK holds a Business Reserve which is reviewed by the committee each year. In the light of previous experience, and because LIPU-UK has no borrowings or debt, the reserve has been reduced over the last three years and now stands at a modest £2000 which is held to deal with any unexpected contingencies.

Membership The support of existing members is appreciated but there is, inevitably, an annual reduction of active members and it causes some concern that LIPU-UK has succeeded only in maintaining its membership at around 1020 throughout the year.

Projects supported As agreed in September 2004 and explained to the membership in the Hoopoe of 2005 LIPU-UK undertook to support two major and two minor projects in the year under review.

1. Anti-poaching campaigns and work on the Straits of Messina and, in the north, in the valleys around Brescia. (Major)

2. The second year of survey work to discover the migration paths of raptors through Sicily and to integrate the data with the anti-poaching camp above. (Major)

3. Provision of medicines and surgical supplies for one or more of the Recovery Centres run by LIPU.

4. Purchase of a laptop computer and projector for improving the effectiveness of presentations.

The exciting and important research project to survey raptor flight paths was funded totally by the Anglo Italian Society for the Protection of Animals (AISPA), the organisation which has played a vital role in the history of LIPU in Italy as well as in the UK. This generous support marks another milestone in a successful relationship which dates back to the original foundation of LIPU, our gratitude is recorded once more.

Performance measured against targets

Membership. A modest increase to 1020.

Service to members. Four quarterly newsletters were successfully delivered. In addition, 60 members received the Ali in Italian and over 180 received supplementary news by email.

Projects in Italy. All agreed projects were fully funded.

Oasi Fund. Increased to £176800.

Our gratitude needs to be recorded for the sterling work of our team of translators headed by Brian Horkley, whose contributions make possible the English edition of "Ali", which is our main means of communication with all our members. In addition, Brian's personal efforts in producing "Frammenti" the supplementary news bulletin about birding issues in Italy in particular and Europe in general which is sent to those who wish to receive it by e-mail is highly commendable.

Carol Debney 20 October 2005

On behalf of the trustees

This is an abridged version of the Annual Report which was lodged with the Charity Commission (CC) in October 2005. The statement of financial activities which follows is extracted from the inspected accounts submitted to the Commission at the same time. The documents can be viewed on the CC web site (www.charity-commission.gov.uk) and searching for LIPU-UK.

Copies of the full reports will be supplied, if required, on receipt of a SAE from members and for a suitable donation to LIPU funds from non members.

STATEMENT OF FINANCIAL ACTIVITIES FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30 JUNE 2005
2004 - 2005
2003 - 2004
INCOMING RESOURCES
Subscriptions and Donations 43198 40236
Gift Aid 6813 7192
Legacies 75536 700
Total Voluntary Income 125547 48128
Annual Draw 2894 2871
Trading 0 210
Bank deposit interest 5071 2737
TOTAL INCOMING RESOURCES 133512 53946
RESOURCES EXPENDED
Charitable Expenditure in Italy
Projects described in the Hoopoe 26126 23655
Administrative Expenses
Membership fees to Italy 8373 10241
Printing, Postage & Stationery 3414 3793
Travel 454 540
Recruiting Campaign 257 1350
Miscellaneous Expenses 1577 1781
TOTAL RESOURCES EXPENDED 40201 41360
NET INCOMING RESOURCES FOR THE YEAR 93311 12586

TAIL FEATHERS

In the September edition of the Ali I wrote of the World Land Trust, and Bird Holidays, based in Leeds and owned by LIPU member, Paul Willoughby.

WLT continues its excellent world of raising funds to buy land and restoring it to valuable habitat for wildlife. It does this through local partners who know the challenges and are dedicated to restoring these areas to their former glory.

Fundación Jocotoco now has seven reserves in Ecuador and half of the 90 threatened species in that country has been seen in the protected areas. To help extend these reserves costs just £25 per acre.

WLT has launched a carbon balancing scheme in which we can replace the carbon we release by burning fuels. The new web site, www.carbonbalanced.org has more information and is well worth a visit.

You may think it unusual to be reading what is almost an advert for another charity but I support the work of WLT and think that it is one of the best, please help them if you can - but don't desert LIPU!

There is much concern about the possible damage to the atmosphere caused by air travel and we don't help when flying to other countries to watch birds. Carbon balancing offers a way to continue travelling with as clear a conscience as possible, and this is where Bird Holidays comes back in.

Paul and his senior tour guides have had an analysis carried out by scientists of WLT who looked at the air travel undertaken by Bird Holidays leaders and clients. They calculated how much carbon is released into the atmosphere and they allowed for future growth in Bird Holidays' business.

The World Land Trust then used protocols laid down in the Kyoto agreement to work out how much land would be needed fully to offset these emissions. They then built in an extra 25% to allow for possible variations and unknowns which might occur.

Bird Holidays has funded the purchase of 65 acres of land near Quito, Ecuador, to be managed by Fundación Jocotoco and the planting of 20,000 trees on land which used to be cloud forest before being ravaged and used as cow pasture.

Holiday prices have not increased - these funds have been found by the four guides from their own pockets. This sets an example that others in the eco-tourism business should follow - Well done, Bird Holidays!

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"BIO ENERGY"

I started this edition by referring to climate change and I finish on a similar thought. Most will remember Ariel Brunner who worked on IBAs for LIPU before becoming Agriculture Policy Officer for BirdLife International.

Energy produced from crops rather than from fossil fuels is a superb idea, but Ariel argues, "Without adequate regulation and a well developed EU policy, the rapid uptake of growing crops for bio-energy production could have devastating effects on the environment."

We might think this regulation is justified when we read that the Indonesian government has announced that three million hectares of lowland tropical forest will be cleared to create palm oil plantations for bio diesel...

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My thanks, as always, go to the translators of the issue:: Cicely Adelson, Joanna Bazen, Ambra Burls, Daria Dadam, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley.

Drawings in this issue are by courtesy of the RSPB