The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
A strange, and in some ways, an unhappy year has passed and we look forward to better times for Italy's nature in the year ahead.
The good things are easy to define, the determined and unswerving opposition to all the illegal hunting which still goes on in Italy in open defiance of laws both domestic and European. LIPU is not alone in this, there are a few other organisations united in their opposition of the current government's policies.
Unlike most other BirdLife partners LIPU runs recovery centres, or hospitals, in order to cure and release, where possible, survivors of the carnage and I am trying hard here to choose words which do not exaggerate the position. So, is it carnage? Let's look at the recent results achieved by the Recovery Centre of Rome and the courageous work of Piergiorgio Candela in the valleys of Brescia.
A glimpse of the Rome centre's work appeared recently on the LIPU Internet forum when the following numbers were revealed of the birds taken in with gunshot injuries - and these figures represent just some of the wounded birds which were found in one week!
Kestrel 11 Buzzard 13 Peregrine Falcon 4 Long-eared Owl 3 Sparrowhawk 4 Marsh Harrier 2 Goshawk 2 Barn Owl 2 Honey Buzzard 1 Booted Eagle 1 Grey Heron 1
Could any of these birds be mistaken for a species on the approved "hunting list"? There is no excuse here - if the hunters cannot recognise their targets they should not be allowed anywhere near a shotgun.
It is not the trappers in the north who are the cause of the deaths of millions of small songbirds in the archetti traps in the bushes of the Brescia valleys, it is the people who will pay to eat these pathetic little creatures grilled on a spit.
These perverted diners create the demand and the restaurants
satisfy the market in their back rooms, and it is the owners of these illegal restaurants who pay the trappers for their disgusting catch.
Piergiorgio Candela and his team of 3 or 4 people spend the autumn patrolling the valleys on the look out for poachers. This year State Forest Rangers confiscated 4000 traps and the LIPU team a further 11000. A total of 61 offenders was reported an increase of 11 over the previous year.
The last word of my title describes the face of a political regime which has no care for nature or its own environment.
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IT'S NOT ALL BAD NEWS
In the midst of the hunting and trapping there are successes for those on the side of the birds as these news items of the past few months show:
Carabinieri and LIPU Rangers in Action in Salerno
200 small birds, 11 nets and many traps have been confiscated by Carabinieri and LIPU volunteers. One person has been charged with trafficking in protected birds. The birds had been destined for illegal collections and were immediately set free.
The LIPU delegate for Salerno has commented that the illegal trade in wildlife is still deeply rooted in the area.
European Union - Proceedings have been filed against Italy
Following reports presented by LAC (League Against Hunting) in 2002, the European Commission has opened proceedings against Italy for various infractions of the directives on conservation of wild birds in Sardinia and Puglia. The charges concern the illegal lengthening of the hunting season for some species.
Lombardy - Sparrows and Starlings
The Regional Tribunal in Milan has ordered the suspension of hunting sparrows and starlings that the Regional authorities had put on the list of huntable species. Killing these species is forbidden with immediate effect throughout Lombardy. Offenders can be taken to Magistrates court and have firearms confiscated. Action against the two regions was brought by organisations including LAC and WWF.
Lombardy - saving Chaffinches and Bramblings
The Regional Administrative Tribunal in Milan has suspended hunting of Chaffinches and Bramblings, species that the Lombardy Regional Authority had included on the hunting list. Killing these species is now unlawful with immediate effect throughout Lombardy. The measure had been requested by environmental organisations after the Regional Council had illegally included them, being protected species under European Directives for the Conservation of Wildlife.
Chaffinches in Tuscany
Chaffinches in Tuscany have been saved. The Regional Tribunal in Florence has suspended with immediate effect all hunting of chaffinches. Such activities had been allowed by a Regional variation in national law.
Without recourse to the court by environmental organisations there would undoubtedly have been a real slaughter of these birds, protected by the EU since 1977. The Regional authorities had authorised the killing of 10 chaffinches each for up to 47,000 licensed hunters in Tuscany, a possible almost half a million birds.
Sicily: More funds available for Parks and Reserves
Almost €5 million (I make that about £3 million), in addition to amounts already allocated, are going to parks and reserves in Sicily. Mario Parlvecchio, the Regional Councillor for Land and Environment, made the announcement. He has met the Presidents of the four Parks in Sicily, Nebrodi, Etna, Madonie and Alcantara, and representatives of reserve managers.
Conservation News from Italy
From the President of LIPU
by Giuliano Tallone
Injured raptors, biodiversity and climatic change
In his first letter to ALI as president, Giuliano Tallone reflected on the connections between the act of saving a single injured Buzzard (which he had heard about on the radio) and the wider issues of climatic change.
He recognised that, in a world where the atmospheric cycles were changing, where the poles were melting and where tropical storms were becoming ever more frequent, such individual acts were, in themselves, of more importance to the saver than the saved. But why do so many people devote so much effort and free time to these demanding acts of altruism?
For him the answer lies in what may be seen as the "trademark" of LIPU, which to a certain degree sets it apart from many of its BirdLife International partners. Without being an animal rights organisation, LIPU brings an emotion and passion to its activities in nature conservation which, though perhaps a little irrational, gives it a force and conviction to it what it does. In this way LIPU is truly, within the international context, a "Mediterranean" association.
And so, talking of injured raptors is simply a way of getting through to people and putting across more important ideas by starting from their own personal experience and their own feelings. In this way we can explain that a Buzzard is a mirror of the biodiversity of an area, because her slow and gentle flight over plains and mountains points to the existence of an entire community of small mammals and the plants and insects on which they feed. LIPU can make people understand that nursing injured individuals without protecting their habitat through proper policies for looking after the region, for managing hunting and farming and transport risk being a vain effort. Linking the saving of a poor injured animal to the protection of the ecosystem and the healthy balance of the water cycle and the climate, that is the important thing.
If we succeed in making this effort through the action of our volunteers and of our raptor rescue centres and above all through their education and communication programme, we shall have taken step further towards a sustainable future for our planet.
A GLOBAL MEETING PLACE FOR PARKS
South Africa hosts a World Congress for Protected Areas
by Giuliano Tallone, President of LIPU
The Fifth World Congress for Nature Parks, organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, was opened in Durban on September 8th by the emblematic figure of Nelson Mandela. Held every ten years, its 2500 delegates now include, as well as from the expected figures in park administration, representatives of conservation organisations such as BirdLife International, and of indigenous and local populations, plus government and the academic world. I was there as director of the Lazio Parks Authority, and had a valuable opportunity to share the experience of those of many nations.
Money well spent?
One might of course ask whether a jamboree such as this is worth the ten million US dollars it cost to stage. The answer has to be yes. To give one example, Brazil announced at the meeting the creation of a park, the largest in the world, covering 3.8 million hectares of the Amazon rain forest, of such vital importance for so many threatened species, and the timing was undoubtedly influenced by the Congress taking place. One does not buy three million hectares of rain forest with a mere ten million dollars.
Italian Parks at Durban
The question also arises regarding the Italian contribution, and how our country stands as regard the status of its parks both in theory and practice. With a score of delegates, we were able to contribute significantly to the central debates, and even if lacking an overall strategy were able to present a view of our most innovative development, that of the Apennine Park Project, which in common with the Congress's slogan, attempts to think outside the usual physical, ecological, social and institutional parameters.
It is fair to say however that we would have carried more weight if there had been official representation from our own Ministry of the Environment, especially in view of the current EU Presidency, and reflecting on our achievements from the perspective of Durban, there is a certain sense of our falling behind in international terms, both administratively and technically. Environmental organisations in other countries can count on much more assistance from their academic communities, on research of a calibre to make the pages of Science or Nature, the construction of a scientific basis for conservation measures, while we risk our efforts being dissipated in provincialism and low-level conflicts. We need to understand that a strong basis of knowledge is essential to understand in turn the whats, hows and wheres of conservation development, and what sort of things we have to do to protect biodiversity.
In Italy, what sort of politics?
The politics of the last few years in relation to our parks have been of great importance, and the legal attacks on protected areas and projected environmental legislation are potentially devastating and a great worry. Let us hope that the Government will take stock of the importance of protected areas for the economy and for society, as well as "mere" ecological reasons.
Ten years on
Finally, as the President of the Congress remarked when closing, it would be better to hold the next one in five years, not ten. For many species on our planet, the hour is already growing late.
TO SAVE GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY
Protected areas do not adequately guarantee the defence of the planet's biodiversity. They are often concentrated in regions and surroundings which are not the richest and most important from a biological point of view. In fact, the tendency is to put under protection sparsely-populated areas and those of low economic value. The fundamental approach to overcome these shortcomings is one which identifies "key areas of biodiversity", based on the presence of species in need of conservation intervention.
BirdLife International has been a pioneer in this approach, thanks to the IBA (Important Bird Areas) project, which in the course of the last 20 years has identified more than 7,000 bird sites in more than 130 countries. These sites represent an effective priority list for conservation of worldwide avifauna. Preliminary studies have shown that IBAs often coincide with key areas for biodiversity, and can thence serve as survey tools gathering information on other animal or plant groups which may be missing or incomplete.
IBAs in Italy
LIPU, which is managing the IBA Project in Italy, has identified the network of important areas for birds; there are 172 sites which cover a ground area of 4,987,118 hectares. Analysis of the overlapping of the networks of IBAs and the national system of Protected Areas reveals that 35% of IBA ground area lies in Protected Areas. This shows that in Italy, as in other parts of the world, the Protected Areas play an important role in guarding the most important areas of conservation of biological resources, but also that it is indispensable for the protection of birds to think of territory "outside" protected areas, from a viewpoint of an ecological network.
Natura 2000 Network
Parks and Reserves are not the only areas placed under guardianship in Italy. To the system of Protected Areas may be added the Natura 2000 Network collection of sites under community guidance and dedicated to biodiversity conservation. The Natura 2000 Network consists of Special Protection Zones (ZPS) and Sites of Community Importance (SIC). These are areas identified specifically for bird protection (ZPS) of natural habitat, of plants, and of other animal species apart from birds (SIC).
These areas have no specific managing body, they do not necessarily have their own management level, and hunting may be carried on there. The approach of Natura 2000 Network is decisively different from biodiversity conservation, based on particular conservation values, and seeking from time to time administrative means directed to such a purpose.
IBAs and the Natura 2000 Network
The IBAs constitute a point of reference to the European Court, to evaluate whether the member States of the European Union are fulfilling "their obligations" in respect of designating Special Protection Zones or not. The IBA Project has assumed great importance, and, thanks to the influence of LIPU in the last five years, there has been an increase from 8% to more than 32% of IBAs whose status has been recognised as Special Protection Zones.
THIS CRAZY WEATHER!
Climate changes and influence on habitat, animal and plant species
by Claudio Celada, Director of Conservation, LIPU
In the last decades climate has been changing rapidly, and the 90s were the warmest of the 20th century, or since temperature has been systematically recorded. It is now confirmed that emissions of carbon-dioxide and other "greenhouse-gases", produced by human activity, have perceptibly altered the composition of the atmosphere, and, according to most of the scientific community, caused overheating of the planet.
By means of formulation of climatic models, it is possible to predict a scientifically credible view of future scenarios, or to map climate changes. Consequently it is possible to extrapolate the theoretical map of the distribution of habitat over several years. But what consequence will climate change have on biodiversity? Over what time will it come into play?
Numerous "cases" show how the consequences of climate change on ecosystems and on animal and plant species are already operating. To give some examples, 20% of coral reefs, extremely sensitive to variation in water-temperature, have been lost over a very short period of time, the calendar of many species of birds (pre-breeding migration, date of egg-laying, and return migration for hibernation) is earlier than in past decades, and the distribution of some species of European butterflies has been displaced towards the north. We are already seeing a true migration of many types of habitat, and a disappearance of others. We need only think of the desertification of great Mediterranean regions. In general, one can foresee how rapid changes, now in progress, can favour some animal and plant species and harm others. The trouble is that the species most harmed will be the most "demanding", those dependent upon most valuable habitat, and least given to migrate, because less mobile, or for reasons of suitable ecology (for example, frogs).
On the other hand, one can foresee that more widespread and invasive species, already "masters of the world", will gain advantage by climate change. In sum, the key to survival will be the ability of each species to "follow the habitats" and adapt to new situations. This movement will always be obstructed mainly by man-made barriers (cities, motorways, railways), besides the usual natural barriers (mountain ranges, water-courses, seas etc.), and a growing fragmentation of natural habitats.
In this context a network of protected areas (the so-called ecological nets), allowing many species to relocate themselves over the countryside, becomes of fundamental importance. In the next few years, decisions affecting such areas as agriculture or transport must take account of climate change. It is auspicious that this theme is emerging from the narrow scope of emergencies (after fire or flood) and is beginning to form part of all planning processes. Studies of the effects of climate change on biodiversity show that foreseeing future scenarios is not only possible, but is becoming indispensable
NEXT STOP - AFRICA!
In Basilica there is one of the biggest dormitory stops for swallows preparing themselves for the big trip. LIPU has been active here.
by Marco Gustin.
The mystery of migration.
Autumn for most human beings is the resumption of work. However, at this time of the year many species of birds (the so called trans-Saharan migrants) return to Africa, having arrived in Europe in the spring to breed. It is a very long trip shrouded in mystery. A research facility (which is situated on the travel route) was set up at the mouth of the river Cavone in 2000. The LIPU site here is probably the last staging post on the long migratory pathway.
A team of volunteers has spent more than 150 days at the mouth of the river Cavone, at the heel of Italy. The research involved ringing; the catchment area being one of the few remaining stretches of reed beds along the Taranto coast. The team focussed its attention on the nightly roosting stop-overs, that some birds (eg swallows and yellow wagtails ) utilise, both in autumn and in spring.
In September, just before sunset, watchers were initially deafened by the arrival at the reed beds of thousands of migrants, sometimes more than 5000 in a single night. Surprising was the number of 'foreign recaptures'- about 30 out of 5000 controlled. The 30 comprised 8 species including Swallows and Moustached Warblers. Predominantly, the countries of origin were in eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia.), but a few from northern Europe (Finland). These countries indicate that oriental populations preferentially choose an east-west route for their return to Africa.
Fat physiology helps.
Another aspect studied was the amount of subcutaneous fat. Swallows and Yellow Wagtails had the highest fat levels and weight recorded in Italy, much above the levels usually seen. High levels of subcutaneous fat would enable the birds to fly over the Ionian Sea nonstop - a journey to Africa of 900 kms.
by Guido Premuda
We must not generalise, because a lot depends on the environment, the time of the year and the species. In reality "the gull" does not exist; instead there are a number of gull species (some would say they are all the same...), however they all have different characteristics, they live in different habitats and eat different foods.
The Laridae (gulls) are gregarious birds, which nest in colonies of significant size. Some species have learned to take advantage of the food resources offered by urban environments such as waste disposal sites, thus supplementing their diet in the colder spells and reducing mortality rates.
In Italy there are species which are resident throughout the year, others which only winter here, some northern species which land here accidentally. All species have similar plumage, dark upper-parts with pale undersides. Many develop a hooded cap during courtship.
Lots of gulls and all different.
The most common species is the small Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus), so called because of its dark hood, particularly during the mating season. This hood changes in winter plumage to a white head with a dark spot at the ear, which, from a distance, resembles a double eye. Another very common species is the Mediterranean Herring Gull (Larus michaellis), only recently considered a separate species from the similar Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans), present in the Asian continent and only rarely seen in Italy. The latter is very akin to the northern Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) and 'our' Italian gull, but with rosy rather that yellow feet. L. "argentatus" only visits in winter, when it can be distinguished by the stripes on the neck and head.
Getting back to 'our' Mediterranean gull: it is present throughout the year in coastal areas and islands, but more often inland in winter, especially near waste disposal sites.
The beautiful Mediterranean 'Coralline' Gull (Larus melanocephalus), derives its name from the coralline colouration of its bill during the courting and nesting season, when it displays a livery of shiny black hood and striking white ring around the eye. In winter however it dons a fascinating and almost completely white plumage.
The elegant Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei) is rare and has a longer, thin bill; it nests in the salt marshes of Sardinia and the Po delta, where it feeds on small crustaceans; this probably contributes to the characteristic rosy coloration of its plumage. Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii), with its red bill and black legs, nests on the small islands around Sardinia, in Puglia and Tuscany. This is a purely marine species and very fussy: it is very sensitive to pollution and feeds almost exclusively on fish. Audouin's Gull is amongst the 1186 species threatened with extinction in the world; it is worth considering that 95% of the global population is found in the Chafarinas islands, off the Moroccan coast, and the Ebro delta in Spain and the second most important site is Italy with 2-3% of the population.
The smallest of gulls is the Little Gull (Larus minutus), a migratory bird, which winters in Italy, it is recognisable not only because of its dimensions, but also for the black coloration of its underwings.
Gulls in winter.
The list of gulls, which the birdwatcher can try to identify during the winter season is getting longer, enriched by migrants from the north which come to overwinter in milder climes. The Common Gull (Larus canus) resembles a miniature Herring gull. The Lesser Black-backed gull (Larus fuscus), is identifiable by the slate coloured back and yellow legs. The Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), nests in large colonies on the high cliffs of northern Europe. Less frequently seen overwintering in Italy is the Greater Black-backed gull (Larus marinus), which tends to be found in open waters; this is the largest of the gulls and a brawny predator, it is distinguishable for its powerful bill and its blacker upperwing and back.
However, just to complicate matters, the juveniles gulls and younger birds all have similar plumage; they are generally a uniform dark brown, making species identification even more arduous: a real challenge even for the most expert birdwatcher.
A NEW CENTRE IS UNVEILED
The Centre for Environmental Training and Education "Alex Langer" is an avant-garde building and an important focus for the region.
by Silvia Baldo
After weeks of intense preparations at the Cesano Maderno Oasis, the new centre for Environmental Training and Education "Alex Langer" was inaugurated.
The centre opening on 8 November was the result of collaboration between the Cesano Maderno Town Council and LIPU, who was able to provide internal fittings and install the latest multimedia facilities and equipment; this is all thanks to a precious contribution from the Fondazione CARIPLO.
One can take a virtual stroll around the centre and discover a 70-seater conference room, a teaching laboratory and a multimedia museum where local schools can display work. The whole structure is built in wood and the splendid wooden terrace overlooking the stream is its finishing touch.
The "Alex Langer" Centre is prominent in the local community because it is earmarked for the development and dissemination of environmental education to citizens of all ages.
There will be a number of events and conferences during the year with a naturalistic theme, directed at citizens, schools, environmental associations and technicians. Neighbourhood focused projects will aim to involve local authorities.
by Andrea Brutti
Our story begins among the fascinating surroundings of the Villa Borghese in Rome. It's a story of a wonderful journey, shared with thousands of people who have helped us overcome all the many obstacles we met on the way.
Originating from a summer initiative of the city council the Rescue Centre for Wild Animals was first accommodated in the Zoological Gardens of Rome. Days had to be spent removing bales of hay from the buildings and transforming some disused cages into aviaries. In September 1996 the centre was faced with closure but fortunately that did not happen. We were not going to consider abandoning a task which had been begun with so much enthusiasm - we followed our dream.
We carried on working to overcome problems such as the lack of heating and water in the buildings. We were determined that the centre should be not only a referral point for any wild animal found in need of care and for members of the general public seeking information but that it should also provide services for scientists. As part of the transformation from zoo to conservation centre we were able to open a new hospital for wild animals in 2000 with the blessing of the Minister for Agriculture.
The Dream Realised
Today the centre is a modern building with a room for visitors, a ward, a surgery, a quarantine area, aviaries for rehabilitation and all the necessary equipment to achieve our main aims - to cure animals, inform the public and raise awareness and to carry out scientific research.
The centre rescues about 5000 wild animals every year. For each an examination is carried out, a care plan drawn up and tests are performed. Afterwards the animal is transferred to a ward where it can be kept under observation. Often the birds need long and complex surgery. After this they are put into rehabilitation aviaries. The moment of release into the wild is an exciting but delicate operation, carried out with great care to ensure that the animal has a gradual return to the wild.
Spring and summer are the periods of the most intense activity when rescued birds can arrive at the incredible rate of 150 a day. They are mostly nestlings. In the winter the main work is with accident victims. Usually they are injured by hunters who claim numerous victims every year. Others arrive suffering from poisoning caused by chemicals or illness resulting from various types of infection. These can be the most difficult to deal with.
And the Future
We can now take pride in this organisation - one of the biggest hospitals for the care of wild animals in Italy. As we move on we have new objectives. One of these is scientific research which we carry out in conjunction with the university. With so much data available, we are developing an information file and database which can be used by all organisations which take care of wild animals.
We are planning to develop activities aimed at raising awareness and educating the general public and young people. This is our new dream that the centre will become a point of reference for anyone who wants to learn about, understand and respect nature. It's a very ambitious dream, but, as we have seen, a dream often becomes reality.
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IN THE HEART OF THE STEPPES
Protecting one of the world's largest migration crossroads
by Michael Brombacher, Central Asia director of NABU (BirdLife Germany)
Imagine an area the size of Europe and crossed by millions of migrating birds. This is Central Asia, an area so vast as to include within it five countries, all far away from us and with strange names like Kazakistan, Tagikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Nesting here or pausing during migration are birds from northern Siberia that winter in Africa and India, in southeast Asia, even in Oceania. The importance of the area is in its vast forests, its steppe and wetlands, where birds can rest before they fly across the enormous mountain ranges to the south, or having already crossed them on their way back in the spring.
The conservation project set up by BirdLife International will be focusing on the Tengiz area, with its lake of the same name, in northern Kazakistan. This beautiful stretch of water is fed by the river Nura, which forms a series of freshwater lakes along its length. Lake Tengiz is unusual in that it has no outlets and is salty as a result. This unusual combination of salt and freshwater lakes is key to the importance of the area, recognised by the Ramsar Convention for wetlands. Sixty per cent of the species found in Central Asia have been observed here, and it has been calculated that as many as 30 million birds pass through every year; these include several million Red-necked Phalarope.
What needs protecting?
The steppes of Kazakistan cover an area second in size only to those of Mongolia. From north to south there is a gradual change to desert. Sadly, during the Soviet era, vast areas of steppe were transformed by monoculture farming, one of the greatest threats to habitat and biodiversity. The collapse of the Soviet Union often led to intensive farming methods being abandoned. However, this does not seem to have allowed the steppe to recover, and some bird species have declined in number, a process which continues and has been especially marked in the last 10 years. Plants growing in the mountains and plains of Central Asia number about 1500. Among the vertebrates, reptiles and rodents are the most common. There are 40 bird species, which include the Black Lark, the Siberian Lark and the Sociable Plover, this last being one of the 18 species under world -wide threat. Similarly threatened around Lake Tengiz are the White-headed Duck, the Lesser Kestrel and the Ferruginous Duck, the latter also present in Italy and which LIPU is fighting to protect. It should not be forgotten that Central Asia is vitally important for the Siberian Crane, which winters in India and the Dalmatian Pelican, most of the world's population of which come here to nest. And it is here that experts are hoping to discover where exactly the Slender-billed Curlew nests.
This is a project involving the co-operation of a number of partners in the BirdLife International network. NABU (BirdLife in Germany) is concerned with overall organisation. Other important contributors are, Swiss BirdLife and the German Ministry for the Environment, as well as the Taiwan Council for Agriculture.
- Gathering detailed information on the area's biodiversity.
- Research in areas where little is known.
- Identifying and legally protecting IBAs.
- Raising public awareness both at a local and international level.
- Developing the conservation and monitoring of sites locally and nationally, involving local populations, universities and governing bodies.
- Developing infrastructures for eco-tourism.
- Having the area designated as a Biosphere Reserve.
- Large areas of forest and steppes being converted into monoculture farmland, (mainly for wheat and cotton).
- Soil contamination resulting from decades of overuse of fertilisers and pesticides and also arising from industrial pollution.
- Misguided agricultural irrigation practices causing desertification, as has been witnessed in the draining of the Aral Sea (an ecological catastrophe of worldwide proportions).
- The increase of industrial pollution caused by poor infrastructure maintenance.
- The rising water level of the Caspian Sea, responsible for the disappearance of extensive areas of coastal wetlands.
- The increase in poaching and the illegal trade in wild animals as, for example, the Snow Leopard, wild ungulates, the Saker falcon, as well as that in plants (bulbs being a prime concern).
AROUND THE WORLD
More than 20 thousand people throughout Europe took part in European Birdwatch this year, the European festival of birdwatching. More than one million and a half birds were observed in two days with Sweden in the lead with the sighting in particular of a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Calidris acuminata, which nests in Siberia and winters in Australia. Meanwhile in Italy, the sighting of a Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos, in the Po delta was the one most worthy of note. Over 870 events were organised in the 30 countries taking part; at the head of the list was Hungary with 120 events and the best species total, an impressive 258. (BirdLife International)
California: The lake is safe
Thanks to the action of BirdLife USA the biggest lake in California, the Salton Sea, will be restored. This lake is of notable international importance and provides a home to more than 400 species of bird, more than half of those which are to be found in North America and many of which are migrants. ( BirdLife International)
Climate: The Arctic is cracking
After 3000 years the biggest ice sheet of the North Pole is splitting in two within the Canadian territory of Nunavut. The consequences caused by fresh water flowing into the sea are enormous ( it is estimated that it is a matter of a quantity equal to that of a fresh water lake some 20 miles long) with repercussions for both salt and fresh water flora and fauna. Studies indicate that the cause of the crack is a local rise in temperature. (BirdLife International)
Cameroon: the forest is increasing
One of the most important montane forests of West Africa is growing in area thanks to a programme which has lasted 16 years and in which BirdLife International has co-operated with the Cameroon government and local communities. By providing the local communities with technical advice on how to manage the forest resources a sustainable management of the environment has been successfully put in place. The greater part of the area has grown more than 2 thousand metres and offers shelter to 15 species of montane birds endemic to Cameroon. Three of these species are seriously at risk, such as Bannerman's Touraco. (BirdLife International)
With their departure in July, this round the world cruise will see John Ridgeway and his crew cross the southern ocean. The object of the project is to raise awareness in the countries they will touch along their route, and where BirdLife is currently actively pursuing the Albatross campaign, of the dangers of longline fishing which uses long lines of hooks on which the birds remain impaled. To save these spectacular birds an on-line petition has been organised in which everyone can take part: www.rspb.org.uk/policy/marine/albatross/index.asp (RSPB)
Stranger things..! 8,000 metres without oxygen
Most birds migrate at an altitude which varies between 900 and 1500 metres. The Golden Plover and the Lapwing fly off at 2000 metres, Cranes at 4,300, Lammergeiers, Curlew and Jackdaws at 6000. Geese hold the absolute record. Greylag Geese from Siberia winter in northern India and have to fly over the Himalayan Range at more than 8000 metres of altitude! At that altitude the air is too thin to sustain life as the body requires more oxygen than is available. But we know for sure that the birds do not possess masks which would allow them to breathe better.
( "The wisdom of birds" Erik Sablè)
WORK IN PROGRESS
Survey on hunting
The result of a survey by Abacus, requested by LIPU, revealed that 72% of Italians would like hunting abolished and that 82% would cast a vote, in a referendum. If only the politicians would listen more to the people . . .!
Petition against hunting.
LIPU has launched a petition to stop parliamentary proposals that would threaten wild life. We wish to block the proposed increase in the number of huntable species in the protected areas, the extending of the hunting season into migratory and breeding periods, the depenalisaion of crimes associated with hunting, and more.
The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Gianni Alemanno, has offered his help in studying changes to article 123-III of the European agricultural policies. This statute puts at the top of the list an increase in agricultural productivity which is in itself a threat to many bird species.
Since October LIPU has given support to the Italian FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Members must respect certain environmental guidelines. Good woodland management can bring about an increase in the number of different species.
Naples: 500 goldfinches released
A blitz by LIPU wardens and Carabinieri on the illegal Gianturco market in Naples. They impounded about 500 Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, and Siskins. A dealer was arrested for violence. To avoid having his avifauna impounded he launched himself against a policeman and a LIPU warden.
Operation safe flight.
Intense lobbying by voluntary LIPU anti-hunting wardens in Campania. In collaboration with Naples Environment officials and local carabinieri LIPU has urged action to prevent poaching along the coastal pools in the Domizia bay area (north of Naples) The LIPU president Giuliano Tallone has written to the authorities responsible for the region requesting law enforcement along the Domitian littoral. Supporting the request was a petition signed by over 6000 people. The Prefect of Naples has called a meeting of law enforcement personnel, with a view to effecting the destruction of the ambush hides.
A legacy of love
We must do everything we can to preserve the natural world, which is of such inestimable value, for our children and grand children. It may well have been that Prof. Francesco began his love affair with nature when he was a child running carefree through the fields. It remained with him throughout his life and led him to make a very valuable bequest to LIPU - the farm 'Cortenuove' in Empoli, between Florence and Pisa. This is a wonderful gift from a man of vision and for which we feel a deep gratitude
From a member
My name is Lina and I have been a member of LIPU for many years.
Today is my 80th birthday and I intend to give myself the best possible birthday present. I am sending 1000 euros to you for the work of protecting birds. I love all animals but have a special passion for the birds which so lighten up our lives and I have often looked after baby birds such as blackbirds and turtle doves that had fallen from the nest.
I hate hunting and cannot understand how men can want to kill innocent creatures that do no harm to anyone. I know that you do a great deal to oppose hunting but that vested interests make it very difficult.
I have only my pension to live on so I shall have to make sacrifices to afford this gift but it is still a wonderful present to myself and I send it to you with all my heart.
I have made a will in favour of LIPU and will, of course continue to pay my subscription for the rest of my life.
With every good wish
Lina da Pistoia
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SEND THREE AND FOUR PENCE...
I was quite nervous when asked by the editor of the Ali for an interview and wondered how my words would translate into Italian. I was right to be concerned as one section has certainly lost something in the translation!
I have therefore, "tweaked" it a little in some places to avoid major embarrassment and the libel laws, it is the editor's prerogative after all.
LIPU IN GREAT BRITAIN: LIPU-UK
LIPU's largest branch is steered by a man of utmost passion: David Lingard.
Let us meet him and discover the secrets of such success.
The UK branch of LIPU was inaugurated in 1989. Can you tell us something of its history?
Certainly, the UK branch of LIPU was founded by Roger Jordan and his wife in Chelmsford, in southeast England. I took over from him with the intention of following in his footsteps to continue the excellent work he had already done. I must admit that I am very proud of the fact that LIPU in Great Britain currently has more than 1000 members, including some from as far afield as Kenya and Canada! Here in the UK we have two aims. The first is to make our British members aware of the efforts that LIPU is making to protect the environment and birds in Italy. The second is to raise funds to support various LIPU projects.
What do you think and do when you come to Italy?
I love coming to Italy, seeing its historic monuments, its art galleries, but to be perfectly honest, I don't feel really comfortable in big cities. My friends look at me rather quizzically when I tell them that I come to Italy and do not go to Venice, but to the wetlands of the Po Delta!
Birds are treated somewhat differently in Italy and Britain. In your opinion, why are attitudes so different?
I do not think it is so much a case of different attitudes but rather the stages we are going through that are different. In the closing years of the nineteenth century ladies of fashion would wear very large hats and they would often be decorated with the heads of Great Crested Grebes. This fashion was one of the factors behind the foundation of the RSPB which did excellent work to change attitudes away from the cruelty. Their membership grew slowly, until in the 60s and 70s it reached what might be called its "critical mass". That was when the RSPB cause became a popular one throughout the country, even among non-birdwatchers, until it reached a membership of one million in 1997.
The Birdwatching Fair is organised each year in Britain. It is the biggest event of its kind in Europe. Can you tell us something about it?
The Fair started 12 years ago and has grown every year since then. Nowadays there is a waiting list for organisations that want a stand there. It is hard work but very rewarding, because we meet LIPU members, it's a way of getting new people interested and an opportunity for raising funds. Being active in raising money is of fundamental importance. I come from Yorkshire where people have a reputation for being thrifty, a bit like the people of Genoa.
Which LIPU projects do you support financially?
Each year we choose four projects to concentrate on. In past years we have supported the anti-poaching camp at the Straits of Messina, where some of our members have joined with Italian volunteers to help in this important activity. I should also give a special mention to AISPA (the Anglo-Italian Association for the Protection of Animals) that has closely supported LIPU right from the beginning.
A few words for LIPU members in Italy.
I think that people who really believe in what LIPU is doing ought to become members.
Members must have faith in LIPU and in the work that is being done. The more members we have the more power we can muster to get our voice heard. All power to LIPU!
Veneto - Hunting threatened species
The Treviso Regional Council has authorised, from 8 October to 30 November 2003 the hunting of Rock Partridge and Black Grouse. No more than a year ago, 72,000 local citizens signed a petition requesting the protection of these species. Black Grouse is in constant decline and 67% of the world population is in Italy. Both species are vulnerable to a serious decline in numbers, with only 10,000 of each in Italy. Populations are scattered and in some areas are insufficient to support even a minimum amount of hunting.
THE 2003 APPEAL
Thanks to all our members and friends for the success of our fund raising in the last year. We received valuable support from the following charitable trusts and it is with sincere gratitude that I thank the following for their generosity.
The A S Butler Charitable Trust gave £100; the W A Clare Lees Trust, £250; the G W Trust, £150; the Shirley Pugh Foundation, £100; the Peter Smith Charitable Trust for Nature, £1000; the Udimore Trust, £50 and the Valerie White Memorial Trust donated £500.
Members holding fund raising "events" include David and Shane Bryan with their car boot sales and gardening which raised £170 for LIPU; Doreen Hatton sent £10 from her home collection box; Pip and Jane Harwood donated £115 from plant sales and talks, and Mike Shepherd gave the fees from many talks to the total of £145 - thank you all.
Organisations helping us included the Gwent Ornithological Society who gave us £25; the Stewartry branch of the SOC who raised £50 and the Worcestershire Conservation Volunteers who donated £100.
Finally, I am very happy to thank the Anglo Italian Society for the Protection of Animals (AISPA) for its very generous support throughout the year. Our joint commitment goes from strength to strength.
THE LIPU-UK ANNUAL APPEAL - 2004
The problems for birds in Italy are far from over and we shall never give up our support for LIPU's anti poaching work. However, this year we are supporting some projects which will enable some exciting research aimed at making the field work even more effective.
After discussion with our friends in Parma we have agreed to fund the following four projects:
1. We repeat our commitment of previous years to the fight against the poachers and trappers. The brave people in the front line deserve our respect and support, we give it readily.
2. Our second major project will survey large parts of Sicily to find the stop-over points for the raptors in the spring migration. With this knowledge it is hoped that the sites will be protected in the future.
3. A powerful tool in the use and presentation of these data and of those of the IBA, SPA system is a Geographic Information System. We have agreed to buy the workstation and its plotter together with the software and training.
4. We will continue our support of last year for the work of the Agriculture Officer. We will fund the production and distribution of educational material for farmers in key bird areas and habitats.
I am sure you will agree that these projects fully deserve our support. We aim to keep the pressure on the killing fields while also building the educational and scientific work. The BTO has, in this country, proved that argument and lobbying will never succeed without solid factual data.
LIPU has done excellent work in the designation of the Italian IBAs, now the task is to increase the protection given to these areas and we are happy to be able to help.
As in the recent past we intend to devote all funds raised over and above the needs of these projects to the Oasi Fund which, thanks to your generosity and a particularly kind bequest now holds almost £70000!
Thank you all again for your support in the last year, I am sure that with your usual generosity we will achieve all our targets in this year's appeal.
To keep postage costs to a minimum, your donations will not be acknowledged unless this is requested - please accept our sincere thanks for your support.
2003 PRIZE DRAW
Thanks to the many people who took part in our draw last year, again it was a huge success rasing over £2300 for conservation funding in Italy.
The winners were:
1 Mrs C Archer of Dorchester
2 Mr G Pratt of Caerffili
3 Miss L Batchelor of Beccles
4 Mr J Watts of Kislingbury
5 Mrs S Stoddard of Bristol
6 Mr J Main of Sanderstead
Thanks to all who took part and commiseration to those who are not named above.
Special thanks are due to all those who added a donation to the cost of the tickets - it has all been credited to this year's appeal.
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My grateful thanks go to the translation team for this issue who were:
Cicely Adelson, Joanna Bazen, Ambra Burls, Bryan Lewis, Alan Morgan, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley.
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The line drawings in this issue are used with the kind permission of the RSPB.
STOP THE MASSACRE
LIPU-UK will continue its struggle against the killing and cruelty towards birds which still goes on in Italy and intends to support LIPU in 2004 in the following projects:
- The Anti-poaching Camp works each year to stop the illegal killing of migrating birds at the Straits of Messina - we will fund this vital work and also help with the battle against the autumn trapping of song birds in Brescia.
- We will fund the surveying of parts of Sicily to find the overnight stopping points of raptors as they migrate through the island in Spring.
- The analysis and display of vital data will be made possible with the purchase of a suitable workstation and plotter to use the GIS programme; we will also pay the training costs to make this purchase effective.
- We will continue to help the work of the Agriculture Officer with the purchase and distribution of educational material for farmers in key bird areas and habitats.
Please help us - make a donation of any size to LIPU-UK