The Hoopoe

The Hoopoe - January 2005

This is my seventh issue of the Hoopoe since becoming your delegate and I'd like to look back for a moment on a time of success in the face of huge challenges. We have taken the UK branch of LIPU forward at an increasing pace in our support of the work going on in Italy, but how do we measure that pace and the value of our efforts?

We can do so in various ways; our membership - increasing but oh, so slowly, our fund raising which seems to break a record each year and is now certain to exceed a half million pounds by midsummer - a fantastic achievement in the fifteen years since our foundation.

Unlike many charities, we appeal to our supporters only once a year and this year we ask your help to support projects as vital and urgent as ever. The long struggle means that poaching at Messina is so much less than in years gone by, but it would flare up again were it not for the protection camps of LIPU and others. We'll be helping here as we have always done but, this year, I'd like to tell you about the horror in the beautiful valleys of the north, valleys close to the tourist areas around the lakes Como, Garda and Iseo.

Late in September I joined LIPU Inspector Piergiorgio Candela and colleague, Paolo Baldi, a journalist on the "Brescia Today" newspaper on a typical day patrolling the area. In one day we found crossbills in a cage, redwings in another, robins in mist nets and we found the archetti bow traps by the score. Mercifully, we found only four dead robins and were able to confiscate the traps before any more birds could be caught.

Piergiorgio has been spending his holidays in this area for over 20 years and has been responsible for collecting more archetti than he can count. This is no exaggeration - an average annual haul is over 11,000 traps and in 1986 he and his team found and confiscated 12,000 in one day!

He estimates that his haul is rarely over 20% of those which are set, and in good conditions each trap is expected to catch 3 to 5 birds a day, which supports the estimates of many millions of birds being caught each year.

Inspector Candela has the scars of battle, he has been stabbed, shot, and slashed with a sickle, but every year he comes back for the robins. No longer in the flush of youth, he is keen to pass on his experience, and priceless local knowledge, to the team of volunteers who will one day continue the work when he accepts a well earned retirement.

It is almost impossible to understand the legal arguments here. There is European law and national Italian law but both may be overruled by the regions for reasons which seem nonsensical to us. The caged crossbills were illegal, the redwings were not, but they would have been in another region of Italy! In the midst of this the trapping contravenes all laws but the people who pursue this disgusting business call it hunting - and as soon as the hunting season starts, out go the traps in their thousands.

The pictures show one of the traps set with its bait of rowan berries and, above, is Paolo releasing a robin from a mist net.

Next year we want to emphasise our commitment to stamping out this barbarism and we intend to support Piergiorgio and his team, again, and we'll continue standing together with these brave men until the people of the north change their ways.

To summarise these efforts, here is a LIPU press release of last month:

The first phase of LIPU's campaign in Brescia has just finished.

26 frames with nets have been confiscated from parks and private gardens, as well as 142 mist nets, totalling 3000 metres in length, 4500 traps of various types, 216 snares and 22 cages.

These are the results of the two and a half month intensive campaign carried out by LIPU, the first phase of its action to combat the illegal trapping of birds in the Bresciano valleys. The LIPU team of four was co-ordinated by LIPU Inspector Piergiorgio Candela.

Poaching in Brescia is a running sore, where every autumn and winter thousands of deadly traps are set to catch small birds such as Robins, which then die a long and agonising death. During this period they also impounded 510 birds of protected species, which were discovered in small metal cages. They were set free in Piemonte, where similar barbaric practices do not exist, or taken to a recovery centre. More than a thousand Robins and other small insectivorous birds were found in the traps, caught by the legs, and from which they had struggled in vain to escape.

Piergiorgio Candela reported, "We have noticed a substantial increase in the illegal use of traps and decoys compared with 2003. These activities are not confined to the valleys, they are also being discovered down on the plain, too. They are uncivilised practices, aimed at the gastronomic market, and are doing irreversible damage to what are already weakened bird populations. They continue due to the lack of effective action by the authorities that have a duty of supervision. This is in spite of the fact that many of the traps and nets are easily visible from the roads."

There was even a steel structure to hold nets, 100 metres in length and 5 metres high, that had been installed at Monte Manos di Capovalle between Lakes Garda and Idro, and which could be plainly seen a kilometre away.

Candela concluded, "In spite of various kinds of intimidation we succeeded in completing our campaign, some of it in very poor weather conditions. Thanks to our work a large number of birds were able to survive instead of finishing up on the spit."

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FROM THE PRESIDENT

Giuliano Tallone

Assessing the Situation

Was this a good year for nature? What will next year be like? We succeeded in so many ways, thanks to YOU.

As Christmas approaches, we need to assess what has happened over the last year. We have focused mainly on rethinking the association, and above all on how LIPU could organise its strategy, organisation and finance so as to attain its objectives better: the results of this will be presented to the next annual assembly celebrating its (first) forty years.

Whilst we continue with plans, there are more and more opportunities for increasing awareness and for providing more information and environmental education. We have opened nine Reserves such as the Celestina in Reggio Emilia - environmental restoration following "historic" Torrile's example. We also opened a "marine coastal reserve" near Cesenatico where thanks to the efforts of the local delegation, the promotion of birdwatching has given additional value to a busy tourist area.

Battles for the conservation of threatened species and their habitats took a lot of time. Strenuous efforts were made in Italy and Brussels regarding the plan for areas which are important for birds in Europe "our" IBAs to prevent environmental destruction in several sites in our country: the Costa Ionica Lucana, the Magredi in Friuli, the many threatened areas from Sicily to the Trentino Alto Adige in the north.

There was a strengthened commitment for more sustainable agriculture on our continent, now that Europe has 25 states, with the preparation of important policy documents used by the Commission, which added us officially to some international working groups. All these activities were carried out not only by national and local staff, who work in quite stressful conditions because of the intensity and difficulty of the commitment in Parma, Rome, Milan, Lesina, Gela and Crava Morozzo, but also and above all thanks to our huge workforce, the volunteers.

"Volunteering Day" will be celebrated on 5 December, and I believe that all of us who are members enable the daily activities of the various centres in Italy to continue, by our strong support for LIPU through subscription, (which is in itself an act of moral and material support) –and also by signing our petitions at local centres or branches in towns, over the internet or by donations to projects.

And of course the volunteers are those who as leaders or activists give life to the local associations and also to the national councils, who work with veterinarians in the Raptor Recuperation Centre, as guides in the Reserves, or who collect signatures on petitions against senseless hunting.

Herons, little owls, gannets, great tits, and "our" hoopoes send their thanks to all of you and all of us.

Happy New Year

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ECO-TOURISM

Marco Lambertini

Programming and Network Director, BirdLife International

Can the most benign form of tourism help to protect natural areas and their fauna?

From tourism to eco-tourism

It is the most rapidly expanding industry in the world, the one the majority of us support in practice, or would like to. It moves around the planet roughly a sixth of the world's population, people in search of emotion, fun and adventure. If I mention the word 'tourists', there immediately springs to mind a rather bleak image of rowdy hordes and cold and anonymous hotel complexes, swarming beaches and rubbish strewn about. On the other hand, if I say 'traveller', everything changes and there's a feeling of adventure, of respect and culture. Of course, there are tourists and tourists, or better, eco-tourists. These two species are the twin souls of tourism, the first having an enormous ecological impact and capable of destroying an area's social and cultural balance. The second tries to limit as far as possible any damage to the environment, supports local economies and brings benefits to the people as well as respecting their way of life.

Eco-tourism can be defined in several ways, but the description I prefer is the one that sees the eco-tourist as someone who goes somewhere because of its value as a place of natural beauty. Many of those in this category are also interested in wildlife: large mammals, fish and birds.

Some interesting statistics

There is no shortage of travellers who go looking for wildlife. The United States provides us with the most accurate figures. Every year, over 20 million people go on 'wildlife watching' trips. Of these, 85% (18 million) go birdwatching. Even more head for 'natural' destinations. Worldwide statistics are few, but the World Tourist Organisation claims that in 1994 about 530 million people arrived with tourist visas, and of these 200-300 million were eco-tourists and 100 to 200 million wildlife tourists. In the Nineties, while tourism in general increased by 4% a year, 'tourism with nature in mind' grew by more than 20%. Despite the numbers, eco-tourism is still far from reaching its full potential, as a protector of the environment.

A global challenge

The prospect of eco-tourism is often cited to ward off destructive development plans. However, from an economic point of view, and this is especially true in the underdeveloped world, profits are rarely reflected in direct benefits to the sites visited or to the local populace. The organisers are foreign, employ foreign staff, and most of the money involved circulates through bank accounts far away from the countries concerned, let alone the natural areas which are the objective of the trip. The biggest challenge facing eco-tourism is this: to balance global advantages with local benefits so that profits are translated into resources for the management of natural areas and into social improvement in local communities. In any case, without natural areas with their fauna and flora, the thriving industry of eco-tourism would be unable to survive. It is in the industry's own interest to protect nature as a primary product for its customers, and is key to its economic success.

BirdLife and eco-tourism

The hundred or so different nature conservation organisations that make up BirdLife International have developed a number of programmes aimed at persuading the tourist industry to promote ecological sustainability.

Nature reserves around the world

More than two thousand of these exist, in twenty countries, covering an area of a million hectares. They are private and protected, and run by the different national partners of BirdLife. Some are small and close to built-up areas; others cover large swathes of natural habitat. All are managed with the dual purpose of protecting nature and promoting environmental awareness. Among this network are several LIPU reserves. More than three and a half million people visit them every year.

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EUROPE - AN HISTORIC AGREEMENT

An agreement of great importance and significance for bird conservation was signed last October in Brussels by Mike Rands, President of Birdlife International and by Gilbert De Turckheim, President of the European Federation of Hunters (FACE).

Solemnly signed in the presence of Margot Wallstrom, European Commissioner for the Environment, and of the General European Environment Directorate, the agreement has at its heart the European Bird Directive which is the parent of all national European laws to protect birds. It is strongly supported by LIPU and marks the culmination of a long and complex process, which started some years ago in European centres. It is certainly an end in itself, but above all it is a beginning, because the important principles that the agreement promotes will be transformed later on into facts, laws and concrete actions. And this is what LIPU will do and has already started to do, working with the institutions, organizations and associations. But what do the details of the Birdlife-FACE agreement say?

The document is set out in ten articles, presenting the general outline of what should be the policy for bird conservation as well as for nature conservation as a whole for the coming years. First of all, with the agreement there comes the acknowledgement that the Bird Directive is the appropriate instrument for bird conservation and that no attempt to diminish its value should be made (art. 1 and 2); on the contrary, the commitment is to strengthen the European legal instruments for protecting birds (art. 2), in order to preserve species that are at risk (art. 7) and to contribute to stopping the decline in biodiversity by 2010 (art. 3), in line with the objective of the European Union. In addition, the commitment is to call for Member States correctly to apply and consolidate national legislation, above all by strengthening the means of inspection and prevention (art. 8).

Moreover, the agreement calls for stringent respect for scientific data, to which hunting practices must be subordinated (art. 6). Article 9 of the agreement stresses the extraordinary importance of birds and nature for conservation. It ratifies the commitment of the two organisations to promote the prohibition of lead shot from wetlands as soon as possible and in any case before 2009. It has been established that lead causes extremely serious damage directly or indirectly to birds and also to the natural environment, as well as to human health. The agreement therefore encourages us to think that bird conservation will from now on be considered a priority for all, environmentalists, politicians, citizens and even hunters. And, we would add, it should be considered a priority above all by the Italian parliamentarians who are discussing how to dismantle the laws on the protection of wild animals (157/92) wanting to include species that could be hunted but which are protected at the European level, how to prolong the hunting season, depenalise hunting nets and so on. All this in clear violation of the Directive, of international agreements, scientific evidence and even of the political and substantial meaning of this European agreement. We can be certain that LIPU will try to prevent this.

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SINAI - BETWEEN SEA AND DESERT

Birdwatching trip notes

B Caula, P Beraudo, M Mendi, M Pedreli, A Qualich,

Sun cream and beach towels are usually associated with such a destination. Instead, a group of us, dedicated birdwatchers, armed ourselves with binoculars etc., and departed for Sinai, which is one of the appetising, palearctic 'hot spots'. Here, the migratory pathways of many species converge. In front of the hotel, on a quick trip around the beach, the pleasant surprises that were in store for us were: a Reef Egret (white morph), Kentish Plovers and Greater Sand Plovers. To stay inactive on the beach and sunbathe was just impossible. We were 'distracted' immediately by a Mangrove Heron, then by a White Eyed Gull. We relocated to the south of Naama Bay, where a Eucalyptus plantation and some pools of stagnant water constituted one of the very few stop-over points for birds on migration. Amongst the Eucalyptus trees we found Levant Sparrowhawks and other marsh hawks.

The next day, early, we took ourselves to the vicinity of the smelly purification plant of Naama Bay. The area was unpleasant, but for many birds this was the only watering point for a radius of many kilometres. Here we discovered Crowned Sandgrouse, Pin Tailed Sandgrouse, hundreds of Cranes and thousands of White Storks. Resting over were a Steppe Eagle, a Lesser Spotted Eagle and four juvenile Golden Eagles. The constant, warm sun here favours the breeding of termites much to the advantage of hoards of Black Kites. Worth visiting also was the National Park of Nabq, along the coast 25 km. north of Sharm-El-Sheik, which contains the most northerly mangrove swamp of the Red Sea area. Here again there was no lack of surprises: Caspian Terns resting on the reef, numerous Greater Sand Plovers, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plovers, Curlew, Sooty Gulls, Spoonbills and Turnstones. A pair of Ospreys had constructed a nest on an abandoned rusty relic of a merchant ship.

The landscape around us was uncontaminated - just pure sand and mangrove. We moved 250 km from Sharm-El-Sheik to the precincts of the Santa Caterina Monastery on the slopes of Mount Sinai. Apart from being a popular tourist stop-over it is also a first class place for 'ticking off' some uncommon species. By the Monastery there was a pair of White-crowned Black Wheatears and some Laughing Doves and then came a pleasant surprise: a couple of Tristrams Starling, plus Desert Larks and Sinai Rosefinches. Our itinerary included the National Park of Ras Mohammed. Here the Ospreys had taken command. There were termite mounds everywhere, worked over by Steppe Buzzards, Black Kites, Honey Buzzards, Long Legged Buzzards, Pallid Harriers, some Booted Eagles and Levant Sparrowhawks and hundreds of Crane. The last 'tick' was for some Sooty Falcons perched on a rock and who allowed us to look at them from a few metres away.

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A REDISCOVERED PAST

Danilo Mainardi

Our honorary president writes about research by behavioural scientists into the changes in man's relationship with nature.

The original research published by LIPU scientist, Marco Dinetti as well as investigations by American and Japanese scholars, should make a useful contribution to our understanding of urban biodiversity and how it is perceived by city dwellers. LIPU, and we should be proud of this, works not only in the field of nature conservation but also towards raising awareness and putting forward innovative solutions.

A new ecosystem

The diversity of life in an urban context is part of a unique balance that comes from the introduction of so many influences brought about by the predominance of humans. It is characterised by the fact that living alongside domesticated animals, there are plants and wild animals that have colonised the cities. Because of globalisation there are also new human populations. We could say that from the point of view of bio-diversity, we already have a mixture of wild species, domestic breeds of animal and an ethnically diverse human population. This ecosystem must be accepted by human urban dwellers, understanding it not only as a system but also appreciating its value in terms of quality of life.

At this point a particular cultural problem takes over. How many city dwellers notice and appreciate this diversity? To the modern urban mind animals have become a non- essential part of everyday life. What people never meet they are in no position to understand!

But this is only the story of the most recent generation.

Rediscovering our past

Making a great leap backwards, I want to recall how our species lived close to nature for thousands of years. Our ancestors' survival depended on a deep knowledge of the animals that they lived among because these were their prey and their predators, as well as their competitors for resources. Primitive man had to have knowledge of what was edible and what poisonous, what to avoid and what to catch, what might avoid him or what might attack him. This knowledge was far greater than that of civilised man today. Children, even city children, show an innate, even genetic desire to understand plants and animals, only later to be immersed in a culture that ignores the death of nature and turns away from what O. E. Wilson defined as 'biophilia.'

It is good to think that urban man, for all his modernity, will be again obliged to adapt and change his behaviour, recognising once again that knowledge of nature is central to his existence.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION? - LIVING NATURE!

Chiara Manghetti

Educating the very young is the first important step we can take towards rediscovering the natural world

We should not be surprised that we are failing to instil into children a respect for nature when we realise that traditional education is based on the separation of man from his surroundings and therefore from the natural world.

We are convinced, however, that in order for adults to have an understanding of our true place in the world it must be learnt from childhood.

Too often, many peoples' only contact with nature is through documentaries about the African savannah, or a tropical rain forest, which give the idea that nature is something to do with geography, far away from the world they live in. Birdwatchers like us, either naturalists or simply people passionate about the natural world, think of it as part of our very being.

What can we do? We can and should certainly begin with education. I recall the words of the great Stephen Jay Gould, "We will not win the battle to save species and the environment without establishing an emotional bond between ourselves and nature, because no-one will save what he does not love." It is on this principle that we must base our environmental education, moving away from traditional teaching about animals and plants to bringing nature alive. Stretching out on a lawn and watching the wind in a tree, discovering through a microscope the life in a drop of water or smelling the wet earth after rain are nature's gifts to us. This sense of a close contact with nature can be shared with children. In their own gardens children can experience the excitement of following a lizard or of caring for an injured bird. Sometimes the city itself can present us with a unique opportunity. Last winter, for example, three Long-eared Owls roosted in trees in the playground of an elementary school in a deprived area of Rome. From then on there were drawings and essays and questions that the children persuaded their teachers and parents to pass on to LIPU

The real excitement and curiosity aroused by these spectacular creatures gave birth to a LIPU project, 'Our Neighbours'. It aims to harness such enthusiasm and interest to encourage respect and care for nature in all its forms. In this way environmental education is not so much about teaching as about sharing with others the excitement that nature can bring

NATURE AND HUMANITY IN THE CITY

Marco Dinetti

Urban Ecology LIPU

An international scientific research project, to which LIPU contributed, shows an ever more complex relationship between human beings and nature in our ever more crowded cities.

Urbanisation generally reduces biodiversity over a whole range of living beings, though sadly, current research pays little attention to the variations in the biodiversity of whole cities nor does it make any effort to quantify these local variations as a function of human society. This is an ever more important necessity in view of the fact that already today the percentage of the human race living in urbanised areas has gone past the 50% mark and is destined to carry on growing.

A unique study

A study never before completed is that carried out by Will R. Turner of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of the University of Arizona (USA), together with Toshihiko Nakamura of the Chiba Museum and Institute of Natural History (Japan) and Marco Dinetti of LIPU which has recently been published in the scientific review, "BioScience".

This research was based on the comparison of data on biodiversity (using ferns and birds as indicators) with that on human population density.

To reach their conclusions they used the results of botanical studies and censuses (Atlases) of birds nesting in cities in 5 metropolitan areas (Florence and Berlin in Europe, Chiba in Japan, Tucson and Washington in America) which covered 3 continents differing in their seasons, in their structure, their geographical position and their surrounding habitat.

Important results

As the research demonstrated, on average the greater part of the local populations are concentrated in zones of impoverished biodiversity. For example, in Tucson, 71.2% of citizens live in areas where bird diversity is lower than the mean, while in Florence the percentage is 77.2%. Overall, of the 4.4 million inhabitants who live in the cities of the study (for which ornithological data exists) 73.2% live in zones of lower than average diversity relative to the city mean. The situation is even more worrying when only native species are taken into consideration.

These data can in all probability be applied to cities throughout the world.

We are suffering from "Environmental Amnesia"

With humanity constantly becoming progressively more urbanised these results have tragic, but otherwise largely ignored consequences. Millions of people all over 'Planet Earth' live in biologically impoverished zones and are losing the opportunity to benefit from and to appreciate nature. It is possible therefore to speak of generations of "Environmental Amnesiacs" because if the level of the value which humanity places on the quality of the environment gradually diminishes such that the new generations are exposed to an impoverished ecological situation, the fact that the majority of people live in areas of low biodiversity will do no more than guarantee a further reduction in these perceived levels.

The Effects on Health

The results of this study also raise the issue of the negative effects for the quality of life of human beings. In fact they show that the environment surrounding the places where people usually live affects their health and it is enough to know that just the sight of vegetation has physiological effects such as reduced heart rate and blood pressure as well as a more relaxed level of cerebral activity. There is a direct link between the presence of urban greenery and the reduction of stress and improved mental health as has been demonstrated by research in which 91% of those interviewed perceived a reduction in their stress level after having visited a garden.

Urban Oases, Ecological Parks and City Gardens.

On the whole there are two ways to reduce the "separation" of humanity from nature. Firstly, we bring people to natural spaces and secondly, we bring nature close to us. The first approach would necessitate a much lower density in our urban planning but this would signify an even greater expansion of cities and thus does not appear to be the best way considering that urbanisation is already increasing rapidly. Just to take a couple of examples, a city such as Brescia has tripled its urban area between the end of the war and today while the built up area of Tuscany has increased by 4.7% between 1991 and 2000. So, there remains the second solution and the results of the study show that just the presence of small areas of high biodiversity, but positioned in the heart of the cities where most people live constitutes an opportunity to maintain biodiversity in and around urban areas.

From Conservation to Management of Green Areas

The increased presence of biodiversity, even of a single tree, can then bring notable benefits to our well-being. Apart from the conservation significance of gardens (even private ones) we may add the immense potential for the education and involvement of people in understanding the need for the protection of species and the management of habitats whether those of cities or other threatened environments. In addition to the presence of green areas, trees and animals it is important to look after them properly, avoiding, for example, the removal or over-pruning of trees and hedges as unfortunately is often still the case and protecting and encouraging spontaneous vegetation and uncultivated spaces and placing the urban ecological net firmly in the ambit of urban planning. Success in managing the challenge of protecting biological diversity in urban areas can then be taken as a good indicator of our more general involvement in the protection and conservation of the ecosystems of "Planet Earth".

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JUST ONE TREE WILL...

• A mature tree will remove a quantity of pollutants 70 times greater than a young one, absorbing 22kg per year of carbon dioxide.

• In the course of its life a tree will clean 40 million cubic metres of air, a volume equal to that contained by 80,000 single-family homes.

• 100 million mature trees can reduce the energy used for heating and cooling houses by 30 billion KwH making savings of 2 billion Euros in energy costs.

• Increasing by 10% the tree cover in a city would save 59 – 90 Euros per year per household in energy use.

• 500.000 trees can reduce air pollution by 6500 tons per year to a value of 4.5 Euros per tree per year.

• Research has shown that 91% of those interviewed perceived a degree of reduction in stress levels after having visited a garden.

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FROM A HERONRY IS BORN LIPU'S ARCOLA RESERVE, IN LIGURIA

The rebirth

LIPU's Arcola Reserve has been reborn, after a long period of difficult times. As far back as 1993 the local branch, along with the Arcola Commune and indeed the local hunting associations, proposed to the Province of La Spezia the institution of the Reserve for the protection of the most interesting tract of the River Magro for wildlife, and for birds in particular.

A different Liguria

We are at the eastern extremity of Liguria, where the Magro, before reaching the sea, flows lazily and sinuously, slowed by a flattening landscape. It hardly seems that we can be in Liguria, all the images of which are of mountains and hills pressed close against the sea. The river is framed by wide gravelly banks which occasionally form islands, splitting its flow; water stagnates in cut-off meanders and ever more isolated ponds, and in these are reflected the dense riparian woods and the final reedbeds, creating beautifully evocative marshland scenes.

The imagery is no mirage: the LIPU activists of La Spezia and other birders have recorded over 150 species since the end of the 80's, whether breeding, wintering, or on passage, while a particular attraction is the vast number of herons and egrets which inhabit the willows and shallow waters of the Oasis throughout the year.

The initial idea was something of a novelty, as an interview with Mauro Biagioni of the La Spezia branch makes clear; for two years ago an agreement was made by LIPU and the Montemarcello-Magra Park to delimit the Reserve within the Park's territory, and to bring it to being in parallel with the new facilities. And now in these last few autumn weeks, between the zigzagging of Snipe and the raucous calls of hundreds of cormorants, the planned works have been completed. There is a visitor centre with photo exhibition and an educational wing, a nature trail with information boards and other materials to give additional knowledge to visitors. All is aimed at improving the encounter between human and Nature, while the Park too has provided in the vicinity of the Reserve car and cycle parking, and a trail for the disabled with information panels also available in Braille. So in recent days the whole ensemble has been presented to schools, the local populace, and to all the public who have come to see the new-born of the LIPU house, the Arcola Reserve.

THE MONTEMARCELLO-MAGRA PARK

The Montemarcello-Magra Park includes the complex of hills which divide the south-east waters of the Gulf of La Spezia, affecting three components of that province: the middle and lower course of the Vara, the Ligurian section of the Magra and the Montemarcello promontory which acts as a cornerstone to the final part of the Magra and which gives its name to the park. It extends over an area of 3660 Ha, rich in natural, historical and cultural resources, spread over 16 communes. The rich Mediterranean flora is a prized natural characteristic of the coastal area, criss-crossed by a series of old stone-paved mule tracks, linking the historic towns of Ameglia, Tellaro and Montemarcello. The fluvial environment of the lower Val di Magra, while still marked by human exploitation, has wetland almost unique for Liguria, of great importance for birds both for breeding and as a stopover. A system of walking and cycling trails allows the enjoyment of the riverbanks, by which also is found the Arcola Reserve, near San Genesio.

Parco regionale Montemarcello -Magra - www.regione.liguria.it

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NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Europe: BirdLife supports LIPU Campaign

A firm stance on hunting in Italy and its repeated attempts to ignore the rules comes from the offices in Brussels of BirdLife International, with a letter addressed to the European Commission, in which BirdLife International underlines how the attempts to alter the limits of the hunting periods in Italy on the part of the Ministry of Agricultural Politics are not supported by any scientific purpose. At a time when there are very strong arguments pressing for greater protection for wild birds, the risk therefore is of overturning scientific data and the rules by political pressure which has nothing to do with correct procedures and scientific facts.

Spain: The Ebro Delta

Shortly after the failed approval of the controversial Spanish Hydrological Plan (Ali. March 2004), today one of the most important areas for birds in Europe, that of the delta of the Ebro river is in danger. A proposal on behalf of the private company Capital Energy has been put forward, to build at least 9 stations for the production of wind power. Other similar plans are being put forward and envisage the construction of 128 turbines placed at 6 km intervals along the coast. The entire Ebro delta, besides the Nature Park, is excluded on account of its ecological value by the Catalan Government from potential plans for wind farms which could endanger birds. There is therefore no reason for to allow the building of such power plants only a few kilometres from the Delta.

Peru: Wet land protected

Thanks to a twinning between the Tinajones reservoir (on the north coast of Peru) and Rutland Water in the United Kingdom, the government of Lambayeque is going to declare the whole Tinajones, an area of 2,500 hectares, a Nature Reserve. This reservoir, built in the 1970s, provides water for 1m people, and allows irrigation of 80,000 hectares. Thanks to the English partnership, the wetland has become a focal point of the plan to reintroduce the Osprey, and a series of lakes is in construction which will recreate waterfalls, cane-brakes etc. The new wetland will also be able to provide new forms of support, such as an ecosustainable fishing scheme, harvesting of canes for traditional fishing boats, and eco-tourism.

New Zealand: Mines Threaten Kiwis

BirdLife New Zealand has launched a campaign against a decision which would allow a State enterprise, SOE Solid Energy, to construct a large open-cast coal-mine. The plan, if carried out, would destroy hundreds of hectares of wetland, meadows and beech forest, which support the Great Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx haastii), classified as a vulnerable species. It is hard to believe that the New Zealand Government could on the one hand spend millions of dollars on the conservation of biodiversity on its own lands, while an enterprise of its own is planning a mine with disastrous effects on that same biodiversity.

Birdwatching Day

3.5m. birds have been spotted in Europe, and 18,000 people were present at the spectacle of migration, from the Baltic Sea to Sicily. 20,000 cranes along the Baltic coast; thousands of raptors, storks and pelicans above Bulgaria ; 179 species of birds sighted in Italy, some rare, to the joy of expert birdwatchers. At the end the notebooks recorded, over 2 days' observation in the whole of Europe, three and a half million birds, of which 80,000 were in Italy. A new record for the Birdwatching Day event, held on Saturday, 2nd and 3rd October, in 30 European countries. European Birdwatching Days took place on the same days as the world event, World Birdwatch, organised by BirdLife International, which involved all countries in which BirdLife has a presence.

NEWS FROM ITALY

From Flying Free to Save Italy

After the campaign Flying Free launched by LIPU in collecting 6,500 signatures asking local authorities to adopt protective measures in the pools of Caserta controlled by the camorra, and also used by huntsmen as deposits for guns, ammunition, electromagnetic decoys and as illegal hides, today it is possible to reclaim these areas. It is thanks to Legambiente's Salvitalia campaign, which has the objective of realising plans to rehabilitate and re-utilise endangered or abandoned areas. Salvitalia is also an instrument for spreading a culture of legality and for favouring all possible co-operation in civil society, task forces and institutions in difficult territories, on "frontiers". Like that chosen for the first project: the coastal area Domizio Flegreo, between the provinces of Naples and Caserta. Here, in collaboration with LIPU, Flying Free. a true symbol of the battle for legality, will achieve economic development and defence of Nature. It is what LIPU was asking for with its petitions: protecting territory against illegal hunting, pollution and fly-tipping, plans of action to improve natural habitat, restoring wetlands and permitting the enjoyment of the pools and of the RAMSAR Site of the coastal marshes of Variconi. Here there will be buildings to shelter visitors, paths, walkways, explanatory panels, developing kinds of occupations linked to Nature, projects of environmental education, and involvement of the local community.

Birds in the Dustbin

Nests, cages and boxes, with live birds inside, thrown into dustbins as if they were rubbish. The plague of abandonment before leaving for the holidays harms not only dogs, cats and reptiles but also birds. The LIPU Centre for Rescue of Wild Animals, near the Biopark of Rome saves many such animals, thanks to the watchfulness of thoughtful citizens who bring them to the Centre. Many birds are brought in by people who are unwilling to tolerate their presence because they "dirty" or "occupy" trees and plants that are about to be pruned. Some are just abandoned by owners leaving for holidays.

Petition support

We are proceeding with the European petition 'Live Countryside'. Our thanks for the support from other organisations. To date we have collected several thousand signatures which we are going to send to the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Marian Boel, lobbying for an agricultural policy that has respect for the environment. We have received important support from the Greenplanet network which has used our banners and invoked the help of their branches. The Virgil website has given us publicity. Hurry up and sign the petition; we have time until the end of January, please go to: www.lipu.it/tu_campagnaviva.htm

Bird traffickers reported to the authorities.

The anti poachers group 'Valsusa' of LIPU has spotted and reported five people for capturing and keeping birds illegally. It found 170 individual live birds, comprising goldfinches, robins, siskins, and serins, in addition to 7 dead goldfinches. The birds were confiscated by Inspector Piergiorgio Candela and officer Antonio Colonna subsequent to a search warrant served by the Cuneo Prosecution Service.

600 anti collision devices

Collaboration between LIPU and Anas has resulted in the installation of 600 anti collision silhouettes on the noise dampening panels on the Cesena to Forli road. Dark adhesive cut outs with the shape of a hawk, work as 'Guardian Angels' for numerous species of birds who previously not seeing the transparent panels crashed into them with fatal results. The solution was cheap, effective and did not affect the anti noise function of the panels.

Stop to dog racing activities.

LIPU and its lawyers Maurizio Balletta and Fabio Procaccini have put pressure on TAR Campania and have stopped dog racing competitions in the local nature reserves and parks.

A return to News from LIPU-UK

Anti-hunting petition - a real success

Thanks to all who supported the 2004 petition demanding that the hunting law (157/1992) must not be relaxed. We sent over 3000 signatures on paper and many, many more on line. The following message says it all:

"On Wednesday, 20 October 2004 LIPU delivered to the President of the Council of Ministers the petition of 200,000 signatures against unregulated hunting. The extraordinary success of this campaign has demonstrated how much people respect animals and want them to be properly protected. We thank all those who signed the petition and we are confident that Parliament will not be able to ignore it. In the coming weeks LIPU, strengthened by your support, will continue the fight until the proposed modifications to Law 157/92 are finally defeated.

Thank you from LIPU"

ANNUAL DRAW 2004

Thank you to all who took part in our annual draw, it was, again, very successful and raised almost £2600 for conservation work in Italy, more of that soon. The prize winners were:

1. Mrs T Forster of Weymouth, Dorset.

2. Mrs D Saunders of Beckenham, Kent.

3. Pippa Gascoigne of Streatham, London

4. Mrs J E C Durie who lives in Ardrishaig, Argyll

5. Ms C Knight of Salisbury,

6. K Robinson of Mackworth, Derby and

7. Mrs A Kendall of Cheltenham.

My thanks to all who took part and to those who gave prizes.

TRUSTEES

You'll remember that in the last issue I appealed for trustees and I was delighted by the response which was very heartening. The board of trustees is now up to strength and joined by Barry Fantoni and Tony Gdula. Thank you.

THE 2004 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 Lady Blakenham Charity Trust gave £500; the A S Butler Charitable Trust, £50; the G W Trust, £250; the Shirley Pugh Foundation for the Welfare of Animals, £100; the Peter Smith Charitable Trust for Nature, £250; 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 £90 for LIPU; Doreen Hatton sent £8 from her home collection box; Pip and Jane Harwood donated £45 from plant sales and talks - thank you all.

Organisations helping us included the Gwent Ornithological Society who gave us £25; the Dursley Birdwatching and Preservation Society who raised £393 in their 50th anniversary year 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. We continue to work well together for the best of causes.

LATE NEWS

Three items which came to me by email after the paper version of the Ali had been set are interesting.

"This morning I was thrilled to have about 600 Cranes pass over my head on migration. I was at the wood Difesa Grande di Gravina in Puglia (Ba) with my telescope when I noticed in the distance a huge flock of birds flying from north-east to south-west, straight towards me. There were about 200 in the first group, flying in perfect formation, and followed a few hundred metres behind by another 400.

The weather conditions were perfect, a clear sky, no clouds, no wind. I think that the Cranes were able to fly over the wood due to the fact that there was no shooting going on at the time.

On 1 September last some 70 Night Herons were following the same route as the Cranes but came up against a wall of gunfire from hunters hidden there. After flying around in confusion for about twenty minutes they turned back."

Pino Giglio

Gravina in Puglia (Bari)

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In 2004 Purple Gallinules have occupied two new breeding sites and have also increased their numbers at the original release site. However, although they are protected at two of the reserves, at Ponte Barca is open to hunting. We have contacted authorities in Catania to intensify anti-poaching controls.

Pippo Rannisi - LIPU Catania (Sicily)

Volunteers in Sardinia found a truly dramatic situation. In only one week they removed 20,000 traps, collected hundreds of dead creatures and set free dozens of birds that were still alive. Why such slaughter? In the province of Cagliari there is a widespread tradition of the "griva", eight thrushes on a spit and sold for about 40 Euros. Hundreds of kilometres of tracks are lined with traps that are set on the ground and on branches. They are left in place for months at a time and cause untold damage to Sardinian and European wildlife, both birds and mammals. Giovanni Malara, organiser of the camp on behalf of LIPU-BirdLife Italia, claims that "the situation is unequalled in the rest of Europe. Too often the law enforcement authorities tolerate illegal traditions that should no longer be tolerated. Sardinia is a splendid land that attracts so many tourists to its still surviving magnificent landscapes and should no longer allow such cruel and illegal traditions. Alongside thousands of tracks and footpaths are traps of every kind, which are often dangerous to people too. Butchers' shops and restaurants should not be allowed to sell illegally caught animals. We should have a national and international awareness campaign to face up to this problem".

THE LIPU-UK ANNUAL APPEAL - 2005

Last year broke new ground in the scope of the projects we chose to support and this year we shall continue in a similar vein to build on last year's successes.

After discussions with our friends in Parma we have agreed to fund the following:

1. We repeat our commitment to the fight against those who poach and trap illegally. We shall, once again, support the work at the Messina Strait and in the valleys of the north.

2. Dovetailing superbly with the Messina camp in spring was the project to learn more of the migration paths and roosts. This project builds our knowledge for the future and provides effective help to the thinly stretched teams at the straits.

3. The Raptor Recovery Centres are a vital task for LIPU but cost a great deal to run. Once again we are happy to help fund the running costs of these centres.

4. Persuading people of influence is as important as stopping the work of the poachers and we will supply a laptop computer and modern projector to make presentations even more effective.

Despite some bad news this has been a positive year for LIPU with much achieved, with your support we are sure that the good work will continue with further success in the coming year.

As in recent years, we intend to devote all funds raised over and above the needs of these projects to the Oasi Fund, which, thanks to a legacy of extraordinary generosity, now holds over £150,000.

Thank you again for all your support in the last year, I am sure that, given your usual generosity, we shall achieve all our targets in this year's appeal.

* * *

My grateful thanks go to the team of translators who were:

Cicely Adelson, Barbara Avery, Joanna Bazen, Bryan Lewis, Alan Morgan, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley

and to the RSPB for the use of the line drawings.


STOP THE MASSACRE

APPEAL 2005

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 the coming year in the following projects:

Please help us - make a donation of any size to LIPU-UK

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