Ali Notizie - The English Digest - September 2004

Editorial September 2004

CONCRETE PROPOSALS - AND THE WILDLIFE OF EUROPE

This short editorial should not be about the editor but I'd like to share with you a few of the things I've recently been involved with.

Once again we were at the British Birdwatching Fair beside Rutland Water in August and a great fair it was. Despite a downpour on the Friday things dried out well and the crowds seemed as big as ever, we enjoyed meeting friends, old and new, and welcomed over twenty new members to our ranks.

The following Friday brought the joy of my daughter's wedding and a couple of days after that we went, as we do each September, to a haven of peace in the French Pyrenees to relax and watch birds.

However, it was impossible to miss the protest placards and graffiti against the Tunnel under the Central Pyrenees (TCP) - a proposed tunnel under the Pyrenees National Park to carry hundreds of lorries a day to and from Spain. Whatever the needs or merits of the scheme it reminded me of the Messina Bridge project - unloved, unwanted and unnecessary - why does mankind have this obsession with concrete and construction?

I asked Ariel Brunner to explain, in simple terms, whether the Messina Bridge project is "on" or "off" and he replied:

1. The Messina Bridge was put on the EU priority project list by the Van Miert report.

2. The EU parliament deleted the bridge from the priority list by voting an amendment proposed by Greens (with socialists, and a good many liberals voting it off).

3. The Council of Ministers (ie Member States) reinstated the project on Italian government request (fair amount of horse trading by our Prime Minister).

4. Second hearing in European Parliament. MEPs Monica Frassoni (Green) and Claudio Fava (Socialist) try to delete the project again but fail to reach the majority needed to overrule a Council decision.

So the project remains on the priority list. The final EU document is very stringent on the Environmental Impact safeguards so the bridge should never make it to EU money but:

being a "European priority" is an important "publicity" instrument and is being heavily used both in Italy and abroad.

we all know that the EU doesn't always stick to its own rules when powerful member states lean on it.

much will depend on the strength and "greenness" of the next Commission; the new parliament looks much like the previous one.

The fight goes on.

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The 75 page report of the High Level Group on the Trans-European Transport Network is at:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/ten/transport/revision/hlg/2003_report_kvm_en.pdf

In the midst of all this the wildlife of Europe struggles to survive...

DOWN MEMORY LANE

How a pair of binoculars and a field guide gave birth to a passion for nature protection

by President of LIPU, Giuliano Tallone

I distinctly remember the first time, more than 20 years ago, that I took up a pair of binoculars and deliberately looked at a wild bird in order to learn something about it. I had joined LIPU a short time before with the idea of escaping my urban shell by getting close to nature, but I had no practical purpose in mind.

On one winter Sunday in an area of paddy fields and lines of poplars I saw a long tailed tit hopping about in the branches of a tree. His long tail helped me make a definite identification from 'Peterson'. That first Italian edition of the guide, printed on thick paper, was not easy to fit into my rucksack!

I have never had such an experience since. That day took me a long way. It was for me, literally an 'imprinting'. Am sure the same thing will have happened to many of you.

From one simple sighting you learn not only things about a single species you never knew before but also you experience a thrill, an emotion that marks you for life. Admiration for just one single creature led me directly to anxiety about its continued survival because of the many ways we are threatening not just the Long-tailed Tit but all the other birds in Italy and the rest of the world. I realised that I had to concern myself with the heavy impact of hunting on birds (there were twice as many hunters then). I also realised that I had to contribute towards the creation of enough protected areas, since the 80s their number has more than tripled. I have done this with help from many others including you, the members of LIPU.

Today we know that the tropical forests, which are such a precious resource, are no more than a step away from total destruction The knowledge that the life forms they support will be lost forever if we do not do something drives me to act and to propose that we all work together in supporting LIPU in Italy and BirdLife International, which did not exist 20 years ago, in the rest of the world. Maybe, without that Long-tailed Tit I would be doing none of this.

THE FASCINATION OF MIGRATION

Uncovering the secrets of the long journey facing all the thousands of migrants now on their way to Africa.

by Giuliano Tallone

We must all, on watching, say Swifts, or House Martins, or Terns, or Hoopoes in flight, have wondered at the miracle of migration and the seasons signalled by their fragile presence, and as they spiral skywards at the implicate mystery of their behaviour and their cycle of life, developed over millennia and written into their genetic code, but, as in the case of storks, as knowledge learned from their elders.

I recall seeing my first stork, perched slightly clumsily on a street lamp, just arrived from who knows where, perhaps escaping native hunters in its winter quarters; pesticides raining from helicopters onto the fields. Then the long and arduous journey over desert and oasis; the sea passages with illegal shotguns waiting on the far shore; the danger of wires stretched across its path. Yet still it had found a way, through abilities which decades of study are now still only in part deciphering.

Migration in a way is the summation of our fascination with birds, a phenomenon which gives rise to wonder, that we cannot at first sight explain. We ask ourselves, what drives our black and white friend to return to that same place on the rooftree of our house, to rebuild its nest and raise new young? Science, literature, folklore and our own next generation of young can all take fresh inspiration from that coming, with every approaching spring.

Solar, magnetic and stellar compasses

Aristotle made observations of the migration of birds, but it was the Emperor Frederick II who first divined the real causes of this behaviour, meticulously describing the flight of cranes and the alternation of individuals at the head of their v-formations, as they pointed the way to their winter quarters. That was in about 1250, but scientific journals even now publish new information towards the greater picture of the workings of migration.

As many studies have shown, birds navigate by the sun, stars, the earth's magnetic field and polarised light. Experimental work by Peter Berthold and Natale Emilio Baldaccini has clarified many factors involved in the route finding capacity of numerous species, as has the study of homing pigeons and their almost legendary ability. Yet it is still unclear how stellar navigation is used by birds. It is thought that they use the position of the stars to define their own, and from there develop true stellar navigation, from the geometric forms of the constellations and their movement round the fixed point of the pole. The annual internal rhythms which regulate their own annual cycle of life have also an important role in migratory behaviour, and can help young birds isolated from their fellows to find the way to their wintering grounds.

There is still considerable doubt, difficult to resolve, as to the evolutionary origins of bird migration, to the causes and the environmental pressures which resulted in this adaptation. The model at present most widely held is that it evolved in parallel with birds themselves, from tropical origins undertaking first brief short-range movements and then those of greater complexity. But with their remains disappearing quickly, birds are not well preserved in the fossil record, mere snapshots rather than an epic film of evolution, and definitive answers may prove elusive.

Migration and climate change

Recent studies are showing the links between contemporary climate change and migratory patterns among birds, and many individual variations. With spring coming increasingly early to northern temperate regions, the increased air temperatures mean that birds coming from the tropics may arrive after the best time for food availability at their breeding sites. In some cases this may lead to birds wintering further north, closer to those areas. Changes in the length of the day may trigger migration, and this may give birds a degree of elasticity, helping them to adapt to climatic alterations.

Not all species respond in the same way: Faced with increased spring temperatures some start their breeding earlier, others not. These differences may indicate that early breeding may have different limitations and pressures in terms of natural selection. In autumn the picture is still more complex: studies over 42 years on 65 species show that those heading south of the Sahara are leaving earlier, perhaps to avoid the driest conditions there, while those that halt short of the great desert tarry longer. Those with multiple broods also stay longer, perhaps to give themselves the chance of additional attempts at breeding. More work then needs to be done on the parameters affecting nesting in order to gain a comprehensive picture of the impact of these changes on breeding behaviour across species.

On the wings of migration

Though migration has been the subject of enquiry since ancient times, and though we no longer think that swallows sink to the bottom of ponds in autumn to re-emerge as frogs, there is much that we still do not know, and that we risk losing before we have fully understood.

Our generation must ensure that economic progress and improvements in living standards, not to mention the problems of a more equitable division of resources between north and south, do not lead to a complete bonfire of biodiversity, to forest destruction and climatic chaos. With better knowledge and the capacity to act on it, we may be able to influence the industrial and financial policies of our ever more globalised society in directions more respectful of the planet, so that we may go on enjoying the sight of stork and swallow returning in spring, and the imagination of the astonishing voyage they have undergone.

Helping the migrants in a practical way.

In Italy and worldwide, protection and research projects are under way.

Of vital importance for the main migration route between Africa and Europe -- which crosses the Rift Valley and the Red Sea between Egypt, Israel, The Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and the Bosporus - is the Soaring Birds project, promoted by BirdLife International and financed by the Global Environmental Fund. This project is aiming to create a network of key sites working to protect and conserve biodiversity along the route mentioned above as well as in Djibouti, Yemen, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan. The concentration of raptors and storks migrating along this route can only be described as incredible. However, the development of tourism along many hundreds of kilometers of coast that was once totally uninhabited can only represent an obstacle to the migrating birds. Italy is one of the most important places in Europe for birds that cross backwards and forwards to our continent from Africa, and this country must be a very welcome bridge across so much of the Mediterranean. But several traditions in this country are far from laudable, and one of them interprets the spectacular sight of so many birds as an opportunity to be exploited. The shooting of woodcocks, geese and passerines during the winter reveals an attitude to nature quite at variance with our own sentiments but is closely linked to seasonal changes in bird behaviour.

The Strait of Messina, like the Bosporus and Gibraltar, is a bottleneck that has to be crossed by migrating birds, including gliders like the stork, as well as eagles and other raptors. And it is on the Calabrian slopes facing the Strait of Messina that LIPU has been setting up an international camp since 1984 to study and protect migrating birds from poachers. It is one of the most significant projects ever established for the protection of migrating raptors. The small islands around Sicily are also stopover points for many thousands of bird species.

Another special LIPU project for raptor conservation started operations in 2004. Between April and May, it was planned to have in operation, at the same time, as many as seven observation and research posts: at Cap Bon (Tunisia), in Malta, Pantelleria and Marettimo, in Agrigento, Messina and Reggio Calabria, where it is also planned to have an international surveillance camp. The project was organised with the help of the Association Les Amis des Oiseaux (BirdLife Tunisia) and BirdLife Malta. An eighth camp, to be used by LIPU for monitoring purposes during the same period, is operating on the Conero promontory, which is crossed in the spring by thousands of raptors on their way north or heading towards Croatia.

MIGRATION PROJECTS IN ITALY

1988 Project Small Islands. Investigation on the spring migration of trans-Saharan passerines (more than 200 species trapped, out of 200,000 individuals)

1997 Alpine Project. Investigation into trans-Saharan passerines migrants crossing the arc of the Alps.

2004 Project. Migratory raptors by LIPU. Investigation into the spring migration of raptors and storks crossing by Sicily and the Sicilian islands.

MIGRATORY DATA.

35,000 migrants (raptors and storks) in spring cross the Straits of Messina.

5,000 migrants were seen in the Aegadean Islands and Aeolian Islands in spring and autumn.

5,000 raptors in spring recorded passing the promontory of Conero.

3,000 transited from Cape Otranto in spring.

Hundreds of thousands of passerines cross the small islands of Ventotene, Ponza, Capri and Capraia.

OLIVES, OIL AND ...

Healthy foodstuffs protect nature.

by Patrizia Rossi.

It is September! We try to continue the good dietary habits of the previous months, by consuming fresh salads, and delightful goat's cheeses with rusks, all carefully flavoured with olive oil.

The Mediterranean diet uses a lot of olive oil. In fact, Italy is third place in the world for olive oil consumption, with almost three kilos per head; next after Greece and Libya. Apart from being big consumers, we have about a million hectares of olive groves. It is a remarkable figure, considered against a world olive tree population of about nine million hectares. Olive oil production is ubiquitous in Italy (with the exception of the Piedmont and the Aosta regions). Olive trees are particularly widespread in the south due to the climate. Olive growing in Italy encompasses wide variations. The sizes of the groves, the cultivation techniques and the harvesting methods all vary.

The olive oil industry is regulated by the Common Agricultural Policy (Italian). The regulation of production methods has not favoured traditional techniques. The subsidies given are twenty time less for the old fashioned spread out olive groves which are labour intensive. Concentrated production farming has led to a reduction in habitat for some species of birds. Groves that are widespread host a variety of natural vegetation, such as hedges and other trees. There are grassy patches, rocky areas and dry stone walls. All these elements introduce variety into the agriculture ecosystem, furnishing nesting sites, shelter, and sources of food. Wrynecks and Scops Owls use holes in the olive trunks for nesting. Nightjars and Cirl Buntings make their nests on the ground in the grass. In the bushes growing between the olives and making themselves at home are found Nightingales, Greenfinches, Stonechats, Doves, Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches, Sardinian Warblers, and Orphean Warblers. The dry stone walls are used by the Hoopoe for nesting. The walls provide shelter for numerous animals, insects, and reptiles all of which provide food for other birds such as the Red-backed Shrike.

At the moment the Italian Government is involved in reforming the olive oil sector according to the guide rules of the European Commission. The emphasis is on the production of quality. We hope that the reforms reward the olive oil cultivators both for producing top quality olive oil and also for enhancing nature.

WOODS AND FORESTS

by Marco Gustin

We are now nearly into autumn, the days are cooler and looking around the hills we see that even the colours of our woods are changing from an intense green to a softer tone. The autumn is an ideal season, neither too hot nor too cold, which allows us to take long walks in the woods and take note of the changes.

In our region, the most varied form of vegetation is represented in the woods. Forests would cover 90% of the earth's surface if nature had taken its course, without the human intervention which over the last millennium has profoundly changed them.

But what is a forest? It can be defined as an area with at least a third covered in trees with trunks at least 5m high. This area must in its turn be large enough to allow a specialised micro climate to develop, in other words with less extreme temperatures and less wind.

Forests are probably the most complex ecosystem existing in nature. The characteristic structure of many forests is usually layers of vegetation, with the tallest trees reaching about 30 to 40m in Italy. Then there are one or two layers of shrubs and finally a herbaceous layer and one of moss. The most important living things in the forest are the soil organisms, like bacteria, fungi, worms and insects that break down other matter; without them the forest would be asphyxiated by its own detritus.

However this marvellous microcosm is running into grave danger. At present, most forests, especially tropical ones, are the most threatened ecosystem in the world. In the last few decades, half the forests which cover the earth have disappeared and those which remain are seriously declining in health and quality. Every year more than 16 million sq km of forest disappear and in 2003 the greatest amount so far of the world's forests was destroyed.

Where they are.

The most extensive forests in Italy can be found in the Alps and in particular in Trentino-Alto-Adige, Veneto and in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The Cansiglio woodland, for example, on the upland plateau, is a splendid forest containing beech, silver fir and spruce. The oldest beech woods in Italy are in the Abruzzo National Park, and in Umbrian forest of Gargano. Finally, Pollino has larch forests and the rarer loricato pines from the Balkans.

Biodiversity in woodland habitats

Italy has a wide variety of woodland ecosystems, probably the greatest number amongst European countries. In the Mediterranean region there are broad-leaved hardwoods, such as oak, and coastal pines. At higher altitude there are oaks and chestnuts, and then, above 1000 metres beech woods, while in the Alps coniferous forests are widespread.

One of the characteristic aspects of forest ecosystems is the general lack of light, related to foliage density. However, in forests where the trees lose their leaves in winter there is an opportunity for early flowers to appear before the spring regrowth of leaves on the trees.

In forest habitats many animal species are very specialised, such as woodpeckers. Their diet consists largely of insects, whose numbers are controlled by the birds. Woodpeckers have become adapted to feeding on insects on trees, with their long and sticky tongues, long, stout beaks and rigid tail feathers that allow them to keep a vertical position on the tree trunk.

Other common woodland birds are Robins, Blackbirds, Song and Mistle Thrushes.

Common Crossbills are found exclusively in large expanses of forest where conifers predominate. Their diet consists of conifer seeds and their breeding season is synchronised to the period when these seeds are available. Some species of raptors such as Sparrowhawks and Goshawks are adapted to hunting their prey within the woodland. Their wing shapes allow easy manoeuvrability between the trees. This habitat, too, is favoured by Capercaillies.

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THE ISLANDS OF THE TUSCAN ARCHIPELAGO

Seven Islands, each with its own history and individuality. Islands for visiting, for living, to get to know, or simply to admire at a distance - even in September

By: Giorgio Paesani

At dawn, from the sea, wild creatures seem to be sleeping. You can imagine pigeons silently passing, or Audouin's Gulls gliding over the surface in search of sardines. If you close your eyes you can catch the scent of wild blossoms, and imagine the Dartford Warbler picking up dewdrops with its beak. The call of the Peregrine! It gives you goose-pimples.

Seven islands stretch like a drawn bow across the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas, each one has a "distinct personality" and much of their area is National Park.

Gorgona, the northernmost, shaded with woods of Aleppo pines, with rocks wet in winter, inaccessible cliffs and fearsome precipices

Capraia, which almost hides its extinct volcano. The eye wanders among red rocks, the green of the sea and the blue of the sky, the black curve of the falcon. In spring the enthusiastic birdwatcher is lost in wonder.

Pianosa is another island-prison, of unhappy past and uncertain future. It has the mysterious power of capturing you, like a carnivorous plant. You stop to smell the flowers, and don't notice that you are making a prisoner of yourself.

Montecristo is an island driven mad by Man who has visited every folly upon it, an invasion of goats and rabbits, pirates, dragons, saints and hidden treasure.

Giglio and Giannutri, two islands that seem to talk to each other, vying as to who has the more beautiful background. Like sisters who have chosen two different ways, one is noisy with tourists, the other with the combative scrubland wildlife.

And then Elba, which somewhat summarises all its sisters. From the 1000 metres of Monte Capanne, to the marsh of Schiopparella, a succession of groves of chestnut and ilex, Mediterranean scrub and vegetable patches.

The island that resists concrete and fires, and surprises with incredible evenings, sunsets worthy of exclamation, with Corsica as backdrop, isolated nooks and rocks one hardly dares to name, very ancient mining places.

These are islands of migrants, winter silence and south-west winds. Islands to savour in every season.

How to get there

The islands are connected to the mainland by ferries from Piombino or Livorno. When to go: Spring is the birdwatching season!

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LIVING NATURE

The origins of Bird watching and its success in the world .. and in Italy

by Marco Lambertini.

A universal passion

It is difficult to say how many birdwatchers there are in the world, but research by the US Fish and Wildlife Service shows that about 70 million Americans are involved in bird watching activities.

Britain has often been called the "mother country" of bird watching. The RSPB, the British LIPU, has about a million members. British people throughout the world have established associations for the protection of birds in countries which did not have a tradition of bird watching. Even LIPU in 1965 had an English Secretary General and the head office was in the British Institute in Florence!

And Italians have a reputation, partly true and partly false, for not being great nature lovers. I cannot tell you how many people have been amazed that I, one of the three directors of BirdLife, am Italian!

But we know that things are changing a great deal. As a young LIPU volunteer, I still remember the comments and jokes when we went into schools to talk about bird protection. But already when I had the job of co-ordinating the LIPU "Bird watching Campaign" in 1980, things were starting to change. Suddenly enormous attention was given to this new message of respecting and learning about nature. I remember rooms literally packed for over a hundred courses of bird watching in almost all the provinces in Italy.

When Bird watching becomes a festival

The idea of establishing an event for bird watchers was born, once again, in England. Every year the event has increased in size and importance. During the last weekend in August about 30,000 visitors attend. There are books, binoculars, telescopes, all types of accessories, clothes, birdseed, feeders and artificial nests, as well as art, associations for nature protection and a handful of travel agents, all inspired by bird watching and nature. But the rest of the world is not left out. In Kuan Dur, in Taiwan, over the first weekend in November, 20-30,000 people pass through entrance gates which open onto the banks of a large mangrove swamp near the outskirts of Taipei and attend a bird watching Fair organised by the "Taiwanese LIPU", the Wild Bird Federation of Taiwan. Those coming in are mainly families with children using binoculars and telescopes to observe waders and herons on the mudflats, sometimes distracted by the huge numbers of gaudy fiddler crabs and the amazing 'Perioftalmi' fish which literally breathe and travel out of water. A little further away, in the centre of the island at Chang-hua, another 20,000 people focus their binoculars on hills outside the city to observe the migration of Grey-headed Buzzards which come down from China to over-winter in Indonesia.

And then Thailand, Malaysia, Venezuela, Holland, and USA all have their own Bird watching fairs. Even Italy last spring had a bird watching Fair in the Po delta, which attracted similar numbers: 25,000 visitors and many exhibitors, even from abroad.

Bird watching is growing, moving into new countries and increasing the numbers of bird lovers and nature lovers. But we need to take care that the message is not limited to recreation. The satisfaction and the pleasure of observing wild birds MUST be combined with collaborating in the fight to conserve them. Enjoy yourselves, relax, but do not forget to support the conservation of birds and of their natural habitat. This does not demand a lot: you only have to support the campaigns and projects of the environmental associations and, very importantly, unite your voice to the 30,000 LIPU members and the 2.5 million BirdLife members throughout the world. Becoming a LIPU member is a small gesture, but very important!

COMACCHIO - PRIVILEGED OBSERVATORY

On 29th May the first Festival of Italian Birdwatching opened at Comacchio, with many fine stands. The lectures were interesting:, especially that by Marco Lambertini and Claudio Celada of Birdlife, on the state of avifauna, and also two hours on Gulls, by Malling Ollsen. The next day the Marine Reserve Gull-Sanctuary on the Romagna coast was launched. Lorenzo Borghi spoke on Isola Bianca LIPU Reserve and the work carried out to ensure disabled access. On the LIPU stand a great many signatures were gathered for the campaign against liberalising hunting.

On 30th May a great crowd and full stands. Richly-varied meetings. On 31st May everyone outdoors observing: Pure Birdwatching!

The climax was achieved on 1st June with the LIPU stand literally invaded, many more signatures added to the petition and many new members!

In the afternoon Hans Larssen, the great bird-artist, he of "Gulls", sat at a desk near the LIPU stand and began to make tempera pictures of birds, an excellent way of gathering funds! The 2nd June was the final day. Overall the festival was a great success, with 25,000 visitors and so many exhibitors.

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INTERVIEW

Ali put questions on the subject of migration to expert Lorenzo Fornasari of the University of Milan.

1) Does climatic change affect migration?

Certainly, climatic changes play an important role. The enlargement that is taking place in the band of desert in North Africa increases the difficulty of the transit for the migrants. It could lead to the local extinction of some species.

2) With the crossing of boundaries birds carry with them a symbolic value.

The conservation of birds requires planning and co-operation at an international level. One of the most important zones, because of the high concentration of birds there, is the stretch between Israel and Jordan. Here, the creation of an internationally protected area is taking place.

3) Why is it important for conservation, to understand migration better?

During migration birds are very vulnerable. Very often they concentrate in 'bottle necks' such as the Straits of Messina. These are the areas of risk.

4) Can you tell us about your team's most important success?

We have discovered that the airport at Malpensa, with its bright lights, attracts birds on passage. These unforeseen stops are a waste of energy, a waste that may not be recovered by the migrants.

LETS STOP THEM!

Notes from the anti-poaching camp in Calabria by Giovanni Malara, in charge of the LIPU Camp

24th April: a poacher is arrested and charged with being in possession of an unauthorized gun at a time when hunting is not allowed.

1st May: at Pellaro, a poacher who had been firing from the beach is arrested for concealing the gun in his possession.

2nd May: In the Comune di San Roberto a poacher is caught in possession of an injured Honey Buzzard. Charged.

10th May: Again in San Roberto, another poacher is charged. On this occasion, cartridges and a gun hidden in a pipe underground were uncovered.

16th May: In Catona, two men laying bird traps were found with prepared traps and an injured Honey Buzzard.

This year has seen the LIPU anti-poaching camp involved in arrests, charges and confiscation. Poaching has become active again in Calabria. It cannot be compared to what went on in the 80s and 90s, but it is on the rise, as we have witnessed during operations in the area. The reasons for this increase are to be found, especially, in the various proposals for the liberalization of hunting, and in other dispensations emanating from the powers-that-be. The regulation approved by the Calabria Regional Authority was particularly relevant, until, that is, its powers were overturned by the TAR (Appeals Court) following representations from the WWF and LIPU. It was the cause of a great deal of poaching, and the State Forest Rangers brought numerous charges. The damage done was limited only by the professionalism and dedication shown by the Anti-poaching Section of the State Forest Rangers, who, on this occasion, dealt a severe blow to the poachers. Charges increased fourfold despite a progressive reduction in manpower that has occurred in recent years: 26 men in 2004; 40 in 2002; over 50 in 1995.

There is an urgent need to intensify operations. We should never fool ourselves that poaching has been defeated. Pressure must be brought to bear to ensure that the Forest Rangers are strengthened, both numerically and by providing them with the equipment they require. If these aims are fulfilled, it will be possible to frustrate some of the features of illegal hunting, those that are currently neglected as a result of the decline in manpower. Their professional skills and motivation, which have resulted in the positive outcomes we have witnessed, deserve recognition.

New anti-poaching camps

From the 16th to the 29th September, the LIPU branch in Reggio Calabria is organising a camp for the protection of raptors (Marsh Harriers, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard) during the post-reproductive migration.

In Sardinia, in collaboration with the LAC, from the 1st until the 7th November 2004, a camp will be set up for the protection of wintering passerines. These birds are slaughtered in their thousands, or else illegally trapped for commercial purposes.

For further information on these projects:

329/4228623 lipure@libero. it www.lipure.3000.it

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WORK IN PROGRESS

An avalanche of signatures

Objective met and surpassed: 157,000 signatures against hunting in the wild, gathered by LIPU in barely 4 months, cannot be ignored. 157,000 Italians, Britons, Americans, Palestinians, Asians and many other nationalities, wanted to testify their own NO to the cancellation of Law 157 of 1992, the only law in Italy that, even in part, protects wildlife. Many famous names are among the signatures, writers, television and show biz personalities, scientists and many others.

LIPU will deliver the signatures to the President of the Republic, the President of the Council, and the Government, to give a further signal against liberalisation of hunting and to block such an untenable initiative.

What if ? ...

What would happen if 157 were approved? Here are some consequences.

Hunting would be allowed in spring and summer, with grave consequences for the birds during their migration and breeding periods.

The number of species on the hunting list would be increased: very serious, because the number, in view of the data, ought to be reduced.

The parks and nature reserves would become hunting grounds: another very serious result, seeing that the parks are oases of nature conservation and environmental education.

The chief hunting offences would be de-penalised: very grave, because there is already widespread poaching and indiscipline among many hunters.

Roaming to hunt would return; very grave, because hunters would thus range all over Italy and would lose their direct links with the land they shoot on, which, at least in part, guarantees a greater respect for nature.

THE BIRDS DIRECTIVE IN EUROPE

Edited by Andrea Mazza, Press Officer LIPU in collaboration with Ariel Brunner, Rete Natura 2000

"In flight over Europe, 25 years of the Birds Directive" was the title of the conference organised in May by LIPU and the Comune of Parma. A lot of guests came to debate the working, in Europe and in Italy, of the Directive approved in 1979. What has been achieved, and what objectives have still to be pursued? Ali interviewed Joaquim Capitão, the official with responsibility for Environment in Italy and Portugal at the European Commission.

Interview

Doctor Capitão, what can we say we have achieved after 25 years of the Birds Directive?

The Birds Directive has improved the conservation of birds and has made the citizens of Member States more aware and informed on these important issues. However there is still much to do, both to protect species and conserve habitats.

Which countries have been most rigorous in applying the Directive?

The Netherlands, particularly in identifying sites for Nature Network 2000. In all the other countries, however, there are various problems to resolve, especially in Italy. We are talking about the identification of sites and their effective management.

Italy was censured last year by the European Court of Justice for failing to designate and manage Zones of Special Protection as required by the Directive.

How would you evaluate the situation in Italy?

Before the condemnation by the European Court there were some positive signs coming from Italy. However, even if on the one hand some Regions were complying, there were serious lapses elsewhere.

Italian Regions are continuing illegally to propose derogation of species on the hunting list. In addition a whole packet of bills seeking strong liberalisation of hunting is before Parliament, in open opposition to the Birds Directive.

What do you think should be done about these issues?

Concerning the length of the hunting season we will continue to stick to the rules established by the document published by the Ornis Committee. It fixed the periods of spring migration and breeding for species on the hunting list. Changing the dates would be possible but it would require scientific data to demonstrate their necessity.

As for derogation concerning species on the list, the Directive has established that it is only justified if there are no other alternatives, and in any case the objectives of the conservation of the species must be respected. If Italy does not address these issues in full it will face more charges and fresh condemnation from the Court of Justice.

WORLD NEWS

World Birdwatch

World Birdwatch is a day dedicated to bird watching. It is a great event organised by BirdLife International and LIPU will be participating. On Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd of October, 37 of LIPU's reserves will be open free to the public. There will be a programme of guided visits at 172 IBA (Important Bird Areas) designed to promote the Birdlife International network. There will much more, from poetry and nature events to workshops for young children and night walks.

Armed with binoculars and telescopes the public will be able to take part in a world-wide bird count that will provide information for a report. Last year 30 countries joined in the Birdlife International initiative. 80 thousand people took part in 870 events, seeing 1.2 million birds. A list of events is available on www.lipu.it

USA a new partner

The world-wide network of the great family of BirdLife International will be strengthened by the acceptance of the application of the Audubon Society of the USA to join.

Rome: Saving the Albatross

At the end of his sailing voyage round the world John Ridgway gave his support to the BLI campaign to save the albatross. He went with delegates to the FAO conference in Rome to present the petition with 105,000 signatures that had been collected from more than 131 countries. Prominent among the signatures on the petition calling for a ban on the use of long lines on which the birds can become impaled were those of the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the President of France.

Indonesia: a change of direction

The Indonesian government has modified its forestry policy to allow areas of forest that were going to be felled to be managed and restored for conservation instead. This is very good news when one realises that in only 97 years Sumatra has lost 14 million hectares of forest. Today only 800.000 hectares remain. The World Bank has predicted that unless there is a complete change of management policy the forests of Sumatra will have disappeared by the end of the decade.

Ukraine: The Danube in danger

Birdlife International and other conservation organisations have launched a protest against the construction of a 3 km long canal that would cross an internationally protected area on the coast of the Black Sea. This is an area of biodiversity identified by the UN, a Ramsar site and an IBA. The Ukrainian government hopes that the artificial canal might bring in more shipping and improve the economy of this part of the country. The canal would destroy important nesting and feeding grounds for more than 10,000 birds, 6 species of which are globally threatened.

NEWS FROM ITALY

Birds Directive: How do the regions fare?

A red light for Sardinia, Lombardia, Molise and Calabria. Yellow for Veneto and Val d'Aosta. A green light for Emilia Romanga, Marche and Campania. This is LIPU's judgement of the will of the Italian Regions to protect birds according to the European Directive approved 25 years ago. LIPU has brought attention to the serious problems concerning Italy's application of the Birds Directive in relation to Zones of Special protection.

Emilia: 1,000 nests destroyed

The slaughter took place in Guastalla (RE). On 31 May a team of workmen, without any authorisation, chopped down 600 poplars for the timber. There, however, Little Egrets and Night Herons were nesting. Result: nests destroyed, thousands of fledglings dead. All it needed was to wait another month and it could all have been avoided. Volunteers from LIPU Reggio Emilia were soon on the scene and took photos. The President of LIPU has publicly condemned the action. The people in charge have been reported to the police by LIPU.

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News from LIPU-UK

THE CRUELTY OF MAN

It is easy to be accused of hypocrisy by people who look at our country and see a far from perfect society. I choose my words with great care in Italy so as not to appear to be casting "thunderbolts from the heavens" but I am firm in my loathing of illegal and senseless killing.

It is therefore just as sickening to read that in May this year a female Osprey was shot only a few miles from my home in rural Lincolnshire. The RSPCA took the bird to a local wildlife hospital and it was cared for by Alison Townsend and vet David Ashcroft. Despite a week of intensive care the bird died and it is unlikely that the killer will be caught.

This is, however, an isolated case and, as I write this, the hunting season in Italy is just two weeks old and already the news is coming in from the hospitals of the scale of the carnage.

From just one of the recovery centres, Ficuzza in northern Sicily we hear on 10 September of the following casualties: 1 Peregrine, 2 Honey Buzzards, 2 Kestrels, a Buzzard, a Stone Curlew and 2 Hoopoes.

This was followed four days later by a Marsh Harrier, a Short-toed Eagle, another Honey Buzzard and a Grey Heron.

An injured Hoopoe, a Peregrine and a Kestrel have been taken in at Livorno and the Rome centre is treating a Hobby.

These terrible activities are the very reason for LIPU's existence and are the inspiration for what we do to help our friends in Italy.

Still, I am sorry to say, looking at man's inhumanity to the other creatures on this planet, the following was the subject of a recent LIPU press release.

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26 July 2004

Press release

Eagle Owl thrown out with the rubbish

It was found beside rubbish bins, feet tied together and stuffed inside a box used to carry cats. It was an adult Eagle Owl, weighing two and a half kilos and measuring over half a metre in height. It was found by a young resident of the Casalotti area of Rome, who had noticed movement in the box and got in touch with the LIPU Wildlife Recovery Centre in Rome.

The Eagle Owl was severely undernourished and its plumage very damaged. It was also suffering from lack of bone calcium, probably caused by being confined in the cage for a long time. This would have prevented it from being able to consume bones from its natural prey.

After being given calcium to strengthen its bones and a period in the aviary it will be evaluated to see whether it can be released back into the wild. That would not be possible at the present time due to its weak condition. There were some clues that seem to indicate that the bird had been kept by a falconer and the absence of rings confirms that it was an illegal holding.

Eagle Owls are very uncommon in the wild, the most recent estimates are of some 250 – 300 pairs in Italy, mainly along the Alps and in very limited areas in the Apennines. In Europe the species is classified as Spec. 3 and its status as "vulnerable".

In Italy the Eagle Owl population is stable or increasing slightly in the Alps, in spite of changes in habitat and electrocution on power lines, which are the major causes of mortality.

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EDITOR'S DILEMMA

It is sometimes very difficult to strike a good balance between the good news and the not so good in the Ali. The struggle is far from over but equally it is far from lost and every year sees the situation better than the last.

The next items are published in a perverse way which uses bad news to show how much better things have become in Italy.

At the Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water one of the best things for me is the chance to chat with total strangers as well as members and friends. This year, to my surprise, there was a very clear theme - Malta, almost everyone was asking, "What about Malta then?" as if it was my fault!

The following letter was written to Marco Gustin at LIPU HQ in Parma, it is followed by comments by Ariel Brunner who points out just how far Italy has come in 20 years. Let's take real encouragement from that - well done LIPU!

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Members,

Here is a desperate appeal from an Italian citizen living in Malta.

Marco Gustin

Dear LIPU Friends,

We are an Italian family living in Gozo. We really enjoy living here and everything would be perfect but for hunters who disregard the few regulations we have here.

The countryside is littered with illegal shooting towers and bunkers, from where they shoot at anything that moves, even a cat. Last autumn we witnessed a really disturbing incident. At dusk at least forty raptors appeared and settled amongst the bushes in a small field. Suddenly something frightened them and they took the air, only to be cut down by shots from many hunters lying in wait. We called the police, but they could do little, and in any case the damage had already been done. Similar things happened in the next few days and this time the police were more successful in manning roadblocks and stopping several people. They also asked for assistance from a special team that made frequent patrols but the hunters made good use of their mobile phones and managed to evade them.

We got in touch with BirdLife Malta but they explained how limited were their own resources, especially people. We have a large terrace on our own roof, from which we can observe a wide expanse of countryside. We told BirdLife that they could use it but have had no response.

We are getting in touch with you because the killings are about to start again. We can see that preparations are in progress, levelling the land where they put their nets and burning the vegetation all around.

Many tourists write to the newspapers to say that they will not set foot on the island of Malta because of what is happening. Despite the fact that tourism is our most important industry the politicians hesitate to do anything. To restrict (I dare not even think about abolition) the hunting season even just a little, would mean losing thousands of votes. Non-hunters are just a small minority.

We are not exaggerating. The situation is dramatic and is counteracting all the protection work that is being done at the Strait of Messina. Last spring the Times of Malta reported that some hunters had been seen shooting directly from the windows of their houses. We and other foreigners who live here are doing what we can but we often have the feeling that protecting nature may be seen as eccentric behaviour and not worth taking seriously.

Thank you for what you are able to do. For our part we offer you all possible collaboration. In association with us are: Heather and Philip Hayward, Sighle Hill, Sulwen and Jack Renshaw.

Cordiali saluti.

Orietta, Marco e Alessandro Lambrocchi

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Ariel Brunner

Dipartimento Conservazione Natura

LIPU-BirdLife Italia

The dramatic situation in Malta is well noted. Our colleagues in BirdLife Malta are doing remarkable work combating illegal shooting, at serious personal risk. The situation appears to be worse that it was at the Straits of Messina 20 years ago. BirdLife Malta is a small organisation and needs help. The RSPB and Birdlife support them financially and with information, advice and political lobbying. Small steps are being made. Malta has just joined the EU and has had to bring its own legislation into line with the Birds Directive, although it has succeeded in obtaining some temporary derogation on bird netting and spring shooting. Everyone in the BirdLife network is working to block the Maltese from obtaining greater concessions, but from bringing legislation into line and silencing the guns is a long step, as we well know from the Italian experience.

Saluti, Ariel Brunner.

I am always happy to receive contributions to help fill these pages and am pleased to be able to tell you a little about a conference to be held next month which is being organised by Ambra Burls - a member of our translation team.

International Conference

Nature, Health and Society

Saturday 16th October 2004 at Writtle College Chelmsford Essex

This conference is dedicated to :

It is aimed at practitioners, researchers, educationalists, individuals, projects, organisations, students, volunteers who have an interest in learning more about ecotherapy, nature therapy, horticultural therapy, ecopsychology and how these activities can improve the health of the individual as well as contribute to the safeguard of the environment.

The conference fee is £50 which includes all refreshments and a healthy and interesting lunch. There is a limited number of concessionary places at £35. There will also be an all day workshop on Sunday !7th October on 'Nature therapy' for £25 per person.

For further information email Ambra Burls ata.burls@apu.ac.uk

For bookings contact Sarah-Jane MacKenzie at events@apu.ac.uk or telephone 01245 493131 ex 3163 or fax 01245 269488

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CAN YOU HELP LIPU-UK?

I recently asked members to consider whether they might be able to help LIPU-UK as trustees not knowing that a vacancy on the board of trustees would arise so soon after floating the idea.

The day to day running of LIPU-UK is done by myself and my wife, Shirley, from Whisby near Lincoln. The membership is so widespread that this central method seems to work well and although we have looked at sharing some of the work around this often raises more difficulties than it solves.

This mattered not until we became a charity and, with that new status, had to appoint a board of trustees to whom I am responsible. Although more formal than the previous system we feel that it is an improvement for two main reasons.

Firstly, we are required to present accounts and reports to the Charity Commission and to yourselves, the members.

Secondly, and every bit as important as the transparency. is the eligibility to reclaim your tax under the Gift Aid scheme - and this is worth about £8000 per annum for very little extra work!

As I mentioned a vacancy has arisen on our board and we are seeking to fill that position.

Trustees meet three times a year beside Rutland Water for a morning meeting to decide the broad policies which will apply to LIPU-UK. There is no remuneration, other than lunch, as trustees may not benefit from anything other than expenses.

There is a legal responsibility for the correct management of the charity and I don't have the space or the skill to explain it here. Apart from that the duties are not onerous.

If you feel that you would like to know more please contact me and I can explain in more detail what is involved. You will not be committing yourself unless you actually offer your services!

This is important to our organisation, please think it over, thank you.

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The translation of this issue has been by: Cicely Adelson, Barbara Avery, Joanna Bazen, Bryan Lewis, Alan Morgan, Peter Rafferty, Brian Horkley.

Drawings in this issue are by courtesy of the RSPB