The Hoopoe

The Hoopoe - January 2006

LOOKING BACK ON 2005

ave pity on me - I am writing this as the garden lies under a couple of inches of snow and so we've been filling the feeders twice a day of late. The problem with feeding wild birds is the joy they bring; just as I settle to this editorial a Brambling puts all the Chaffinches in the shade and then five Redwings start tossing frosty leaves all over in their search for food. Now, however, the Goldfinches will have to wait as I accept that a new year is upon us and, once more, it's an opportunity to look back and see what we have achieved in 2005...

In Italy, the struggle in parliament to thwart changes to the hunting law has been won by LIPU and the other conservation groups, but it was a bitter and long drawn-out fight.

The spring migration was well monitored and protected in the south, along with the annual efforts to curb the trapping of song birds in the north and, as in previous years, we helped make it possible.

At home we have made further excellent progress in fund raising, even if our membership is static which is disapppointing, so what have we in the UK section achieved this year?

We have fully supported the projects I described a year ago, and, valuable though results of this work are, it was in 2005 that we reached another huge milestone in terms of our fundraising which now totals more than half a million pounds since our foundation in 1989; a tremendous achievement - thank you all.

The largest part of these funds has been spent in Italy, but we have the Oasi Fund which has grown very well over the last couple of years and we have been discussing the future of this with our friends in Italy. As we plan to spend the money on a permanent reserve for the benefit of birds, we agreed with Elena d'Andrea (Director General) and Claudio Celada (Conservation Director) that the money must be well spent and agreed a couple of essential criteria:

1. It must make a difference and be important in ecological terms.

2. It must have maintenance costs which are affordable in the long term.

We are close to the point where we can explore options and Claudio is currently looking at suitable candidates which meet our criteria. I hope to have more news for you in the near future but the most important thing is that the money which you have donated so generously will be well spent.

Finally, it is the time of the year when we make our only appeal for funds and I hope you will respond as generously as in previous years; we need your donations to cover the costs of the four projects we support each year and details are in this issue of the Hoopoe. We send over €50,000 to Italy each year in membership dues and project support and all the funds raised over and above this are carefully invested in the Oasi Fund which is waiting until the day dawns when we can buy our reserve in Italy - a worthy target.

Please give generously, not a penny is wasted, our overheads are at a minimum and every penny counts for the birds in and over Italy. Thank you.

FROM THE PRESIDENT

Giuliano Tallone

It's not just ducks that migrate…

Today the problems of migrating are ever more "global"! Avian flu' and climate warming are questions which involve not just remote countries but the whole planet and which impose on us new attitudes and a new way of finding solutions. From this responsibility, there is no escape for anyone.

In the last few months many Italians have woken up to the fact that birds migrate and do not recognize frontiers and that what happens in Asia (or Africa) can have a direct influence on our daily life. The bird flu emergency shows how fragile our world is, and how little we can rely on our arrogant western world, so rich and so convinced that what really happens is nothing more than what we see on the television. Our wealth is founded on the poverty of others and we must accept that fact. If in Thailand there are people who – human beings as we are – live in huts along with chickens and turkeys and who are infected through living in this way with a virus which does not distinguish between race, religion or geography, then it is our problem too. It is too easy to realize all of a sudden that there are winged migrants that become absurdly a threat. A threat, it really is nonsense!

As I write these lines, we do not know how the H5N1 problem will develop but it is important that we keep calm and think clearly. To hear proposals for "preventive culling" of migrant birds, proposals which are not only mad but counterproductive, riding on the wave of fear generated by the media hype which followed the first news of avian flu and seeking to achieve aims which have nothing to do with human health, these are nothing more than dangerous leaps forward which risk confusing problems with their solutions, serious debate with personal agendas. All of which turns the debate into an ambiguous and dubious talk show.

LIPU and BirdLife International are pursuing a line of clear reason, asking the Ministry of Health, which has been involved on the technical side, to evaluate the problems linked to this sensitive argument, that the matter of health should be placed at the centre of the debate without allowing it to be sidetracked by "background noise". We have put forward a few proposals aimed at reducing the risk of the propagation of the virus whether between men or between animals. With regard to hunting, for example, while avoiding confusion of the problem of H5N1 with the debate on hunting per se, we have asked for a number of well-defined interventions such as the suspension of the hunting season at the first sign of danger, the prohibition of the use of live bait, the suspension of reintroductions of wild species, a ban on hunting abroad (in particular in areas such as Romania, the special mecca of Italian hunters) as well as a block on the importation of wild species, with more active policing so as to prevent illicit traffic.

There is however another aspect to all this which we hold particularly dear today. If human health remains at the centre of our efforts we cannot possibly forget that of our birds and of the migrants. How shall we save them from the virus? How are we to look after them now more than ever? And on a more general point, how are we going to change our attitudes to the natural world? This is the challenge that is awaiting us in the immediate future. The menace of bird flu, just like hurricane Katrina, demonstrates more than ever that our planet is a single entity where the problems and solutions concern all human beings and that not one of us can escape the responsibility of helping find the answers to these problems. The key word which we must use in facing up to them is "empathy": a word which, as the dictionary says, means "the projection of one's own emotions onto an object in order to identify with it, the capacity for identifying with the states of mind of another person". Well, we must put these emotions to the test, not just for a splendid Curlew or an elegant Avocet on migration but also when we think of the chain of incredible relationships that exists between these and the whole of our life as well as that of all those other people in the world. Our membership of LIPU, our contribution in buying a panettone, our simple act of feeding winter robins will then assume a much wider significance.

SOS PLANET!

Hurricane Katrina has brought the emergence of climate warming and its consequences for humanity and the environment to the front pages.

by Claudio Celada

Hurricane Katrina, which beat upon the shores of New Orleans, has reopened the debate on climate change, albeit with a new catastrophe. A discussion has been in process in scientific circles for decades, without, however, producing significant results for models of development, or decisions in political circles. The atmosphere that surrounds our planet is not an infinite entity. Air is the miraculous product of billions of years of life on earth, and has formed the evolution of living beings. The composition of the atmosphere is changing, and the planet is heating as a consequence. Such changes are coming in proportionate measure, and above all because of mankind.

The present-day energy system, based on burning fossil fuels, (essentially coal and oil) is the principal cause of global warming. This scientific truth, now indisputable, has been for long, too long, obstructed, opposed, hidden by some powerful lobbies who were not disposed to make changes. In this sense, the pattern of the wearisome journey of the Kyoto Protocol, which is still not ratified by the USA, the major world producer of gas emissions responsible for global warming, is a paradigm.

In order to buffer the phenomenon of global warming, a rethinking of the model of development is necessary, more sparing in its demand for energy, a nett improvement in efficiency of energy production, reduction in waste of energy, and, ultimately, a move towards renewable energy sources, as also affirmed by the EU in the document "Strategy for Sustainable Development." Many of the changes are in fact already visible, and the scenarios foreseen by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as far as they concern ecosystems, human populations, their economies and quality of life, are alarming. As underlined by the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment of the United Nations, the most complete assessment of the state of ecosystems ever formulated and recently completed, the fate of ecosystems and the struggle against poverty are intimately connected. It is therefore time that political circles leave their ghetto to which they have been relegated until now, to become the fulcrum of the rethinking of great political sectors no longer viable for the environment.

Biodiversity consequences

Numerous scientific studies show how climatic changes may not be a future problem, but, on the contrary, are already here and constitute a serious threat to habitat and species.

During the last 100 years the climate on earth has warmed by an average of 0.3 - 0.6° C. But the warming has been more intense in some geographical areas, and has been accompanied by changes in the pattern of rainfall. It is considered that a change of 0.4° C can be significant for many ecological and physiological systems. But which are the creatures most at risk? The distribution of animal and vegetable species depends obviously on suitable habitat, and in particular on the availability of food and breeding sites. Changes in the range of temperature and rainfall in the course of the year can notably influence habitat and availability of food for many species, and the phenomenon of desertification is an extreme example of this. But there are also other natural mechanisms, which in other, less evident, more subtle, ways feed climate change, often with equally devastating consequences. Consider, for example that the sex of the embryos of many species of turtle is determined by the ambient temperature, and that in general, with higher surrounding temperatures, fewer female tortoises are produced. This mechanism is well calibrated around July temperatures, so as to allow a balance between the sexes. It is easy therefore, to predict a difficult future for turtles in a rapidly changing climatic scene.

Who wins and who loses.

Some species seem to gain advantage from the changed climatic conditions. For example, the Dipper in southern Norway has certainly benefited from the recent mild winters, in finding food in streams usually frozen over for longer. This phenomenon has resulted in an increase in their population. In Germany the Collared Flycatcher has "responded" to milder springs by an increase in the number of eggs laid and increased survival of young. But the stock of some populations of geese nesting in the Arctic region has undergone an inverse fate. In our latitudes, it is possible that the increase in numbers of the various heron species and their overwintering are linked to milder climatic conditions. Numerous migratory species have modified their calendar, and are tending to anticipate the date of their arrival to nesting sites and the date of egg-laying. But other species have not sufficient evolutionary adaptability to respond to these sudden changes. We can state that diverse species respond in different ways to recent climatic change. It is therefore possible to identify winners and losers. The problem is that many invasive species, already rapidly spreading, are now gaining advantage from the changes taking place, while for many species already at risk, their danger is accentuated.

Change of habitat and species.

As already stated, the geographic distribution of many habitats is rapidly changing in consequence of climate change. Some increase their spread and some tend to disappear. It is evident, for example that island habitats cannot displace themselves, not being able to move into the sea. Animal and vegetable species are constrained to follow this displacement. Some succeed, some succumb. A key to survival is their capacity to disperse and adapt rapidly to change.

For many European and North American birds displacement (or expansion) of area towards the north has been shown. In one analysis regarding 59 species of birds of the United Kingdom, a mean displacement of 19 km to the north has been established. In mountainous zones habitat displacements take place principally by altitude.

Climate Change and Conservation: what can be done?

It is evident that conservation problems cannot be treated in isolation from other big questions such as that of energy. Climatic changes take place on a global scale, and so necessary provisions must be at world, continental and national levels. The Kyoto Protocol has barely entered its operative phase, but represents a lost opportunity to link the global-warming problem to safeguarding biodiversity. As regards territorial and ecological networks, it henceforth becomes indispensable to take account of sudden environmental mutations caused by climate change. An example is Birdlife International's IBA project, which seeks to evaluate whether the areas peculiar to bird species can remain functioning in the changed conditions induced by climate change. It is easy to foresee how much more critical it can become to maintain those protected areas which are physically connected. As for the phases of research, it will be necessary to identify the groups of species most at risk The tasks are already under way, but, as usual, haste is necessary.

BIRD FLU - WHAT IT IS AND WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

The position of BirdLife and LIPU.

Every year an invisible seasonal tide of flu spreads over the planet, a virus which has ever affected humanity, often with millions of lives lost globally. In general, nowadays, international coordination means that the active strain can be anticipated and vaccines distributed to those most at risk; but as viruses are things at the edge of the animal world with an alarming capacity for mutation, we, as well as wild creatures, are never totally immune. And so arrives the highly virulent H5N1 strain so much discussed at present. A mild strain of avian flu with limited distribution in the wild has mutated into an aggressive and contagious form, causing high rates of mortality in the poultry of South-East Asia, and has created panic by having also claimed human victims in a number of countries. Though wild birds do not appear much affected even by this highly pathogenic form, with only a few confirmed cases, mainly among waterbirds such as ducks and geese, they have been implicated as a vector by means of migration, and in the case of bird flu have from victims been cast instead as perpetrators. In some Asian countries wild birds in the vicinity of poultry have been killed without recourse to scientific evidence, albeit only sporadically.

What causes the spread of bird flu, however, is the conditions under which poultry are kept, with overcrowding being a factor in the mutation, and if wild birds have been a factor in its spread, it is as a result of their having been in contact with poultry, not vice versa. There are also implications for conservation, with 5-10% of the world population of Bar-Headed Goose having recently fallen victim in China. But even if wild birds can carry the virus, they will necessarily be inefficient in its spread, as the victims rapidly become too ill to fly. Even so, it has now spread widely, from its origins in Thailand and Indonesia to China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and to the threshold of Europe in Turkey and Romania. But there has not been a single case proved of transmission from wild birds to humans, close enough contact being of course unlikely, while all human cases have come from infected poultry, and there has been no human-to-human transmission.

Of course further mutations and a wider geographical spread may occur, but if the facts are viewed objectively, we may also be able to treat the crisis as an opportunity. Poultry-rearing methods must be changed, as overcrowding creates conditions for viruses to mutate and spread, and actions by some countries may well turn to the benefit of wild birds, as with the Philippines banning the import of wild birds from neighbouring Indonesia and Malaysia, China forbidding their consumption, and Turkey forbidding hunting, with the EU Commission, too, proposing a Europe-wide ban. If indeed therefore the romantic image in the collective imagination of skeins of geese winging in from the cold arctic has been clouded by the fear that they may be harbouring a deadly virus, it is certain too that wild birds are not the problem. It is the opposite rather, that the interests of combating the spread of the disease are best served by protecting them, and by controlling it at the level of the poultry farms and the conditions of poultry rearing. BirdLife fully supports this position.

An opportune moment for conservation

LIPU requests that the Government of Italy takes steps to halt the spread of the H5N1 virus and to protect wild birds and their habitats

It is obvious to all, especially the scientific community, that problems such as bird flu arise from the breaking of natural laws and the unsustainable conditions in which poultry are kept, in this case in SE Asia, and to halt the virus requires the same rationale. Activities that damage nature, such as the preventive culling of wild birds, are in fact counter-productive through weakening them and forcing them to disperse more widely. On the contrary, the protection of wetlands for example, and the guaranteeing of food and unpolluted water, will be conducive to their good health and reduce the risks. LIPU and its partners have asked governments to improve the study and monitoring of wild birds, particularly on migration, not to mention that they should heighten bio-security where poultry is concerned. LIPU has furthermore requested that the Ministry of Health should:

* Assess the risks of hunting to migratory birds, with the option of its suspension.

* Suspend the use of live decoys and the restocking of gamebirds.

* Confirm the ban on imports of wild fauna.

* Forbid hunting by Italians abroad, especially in Eastern Europe.

* Step up Customs controls, increase scientific research, monitoring and data analysis.

MIGRATING BIRDS: VICTIMS, NOT CULPRITS

There is a need to clarify the situation with regard to avian influenza without criminalizing animals. In the case of avian influenza it is essential that information is correct, detailed, sensible and scientific. It is right to maintain a high alert but it is also essential to avoid panic and above all the criminalization of wild and domestic animals. The most important task that faces us is not only to defeat the virus, both human and animal, but also to ensure that people are kept informed. The fact is migrating birds are the victims not the cause of this problem; any protective measures must take into account that this wonderful part of our natural heritage is also at great risk.

The following are guidelines from LIPU and Bird Life International on bird flu and its implications.

* There are already 144 known types of avian influenza. Many of them have a very low incidence in the wild bird population although they are more widespread among water birds The majority of these viruses are benign while H5N1 is extremely virulent.

* At the moment it is unclear how the virus is spread and it is not at all certain that it will be transmitted by migrating birds.

* What is most in question is the way in which poultry is reared - in huge numbers of single species. It is in these dreadful and unhygienic conditions that viruses spread and this is how H5N1 was born.

* Up to now no transmission from wild birds to humans has been documented .The majority of people infected have been in close contact with infected poultry. As far as we know at present, the risk of anyone contracting the disease from wild birds is remote.

* The World Health Organization and the FAO are agreed that killing wild birds would not halt the spread of infection and might even make the situation worse by dispersing infected birds.

* Bio-security, which prevents contact between wild birds and farm poultry, is the most effective method of control.

* Global measures must be taken to control the trade in wild birds and the movement of domestic poultry.

At the present time there is only a potential danger of a human pandemic. The virus would need to go through several mutations for it to be transmittable directly through human contact. If this happens vaccines would be the best defence. European ministers of health have already discussed with multi national pharmaceutical companies the suspension of patents should greater amounts of vaccine be needed.

* * *

A GOOD AGRICULTURAL POLICY

Safeguarding nature, birds, and a sustainable agricultural development: an achievable objective thanks to the recent agreement among the European Community.

by Patrizia Rossi

The role that agriculture plays in biodiversity conservation is getting more and more clear. Changes in any of the aspects of the European agricultural policy have an impact on the natural environment, and birds that have learnt to co-exist and depend on agricultural activities. Examples are Skylarks, Shrikes, Harriers, House Martins, Barn Owls, and many more.

Help for farmers and birds

Rural development constitutes around 10% of the EU budget for agriculture, with a total of around 88 billion euros (£60 billion) for the 2007-2013 period. This money is used directly to help farmers, but also the rural society in general. The policy encourages the diversity of rural economy and the quality of life in rural areas. Rural development helps those farmers that use farming, breeding and forestry methods that are compatible with conservation of the environment and the landscape. Since the early 1990s, the so-called agro-environmental policies have been helping economically those farmers that produce organic products, those that preserve meadows, pastures, hedgerows, and set-asides. The EU Agriculture Committee has recently agreed on a set of rules for rural development (for 2007-2013), which contains numerous old measures, as well as some important new ones. The importance of the agro-environmental measures has been confirmed, to the extent that they are the only mandatory policies for all the members of the EU. It will be essential, however, that each Region endorses specific agro-environmental policies aimed at local biodiversity, avoiding those general guidelines that are not relevant, such as integrated agriculture. The European Union underlined the importance of forests for biodiversity conservation. They have budgeted funds for the environmental projects for those that use forestry methods that are more environmentally friendly. Specific measures for the conservation of woodpeckers, grouse and capercaillie will be introduced.

Rewards in Nature Network 2000

The scheme "Compensation Nature 2000" is the most positive measure for bird conservation. It allows governmental agencies to compensate farmers and forestry workers for the economic disadvantages brought by conservation polices of those species included in Nature Network 2000. An example is the site designated to the conservation of the Corncrake, a bird that arrives in Italy from Madagascar to breed in alpine pastures that are cut in summer to produce hay. The reproductive success of this bird depends on the existence of these pastures, but also on the period when the grass is first cut. If the grass is cut before mid-July, when the birds are incubating eggs or rearing chicks, the blades can cause loss of eggs, chicks, and even adults. A correct management of the site would prohibit the cutting before mid-July, but this would involve an economic loss for the farmers. Local administrators would therefore be tempted not to introduce this policy, in order to avoid damaging rural economy. In the next few years, thanks to the scheme "Compensation Nature 2000", it will be possible to compensate farmers for their losses, making the best of both worlds, that of cows, and of the Corncrake.

RESERVES AND CENTRES

A STORY WITH A HAPPY ENDING

The last-minute rescue of a shag shows the great passion that so many CRUMA volunteers put into their work

by Daniele Marzi

At the Cruma (Centro Recupero Uccelli Marini e Acquatici - Hospital for Sea and Aquatic Birds) in Livorno, emergency is part of the daily routine. There are thousands of stories, some of them sad, but most have a happy ending. Everyday stories, where we find the professional and technical experience of LIPU working together with the skill, passion and selflessness of that quiet, but efficient army of volunteers and members. This is one such story, which took place last spring...

"It is 8 o'clock on the evening of Saturday 30 April, and outside it is already dark. At this time the centre is usually closed and silent. The volunteers have finished their shifts and the last round of patients ended some time ago. But tonight the centre is all lit up and as many five people are at work, feverishly busy. A short while ago a big box arrived, labelled "Live Cargo", brought in by a long-standing LIPU member, who had volunteered to act as courier for a young shag from the Isle of Elba. The poor bird had been found lying on a small beach, visibly weak, and with its neck and beak covered in blood. Two tourists had found it, wrapped it up in a towel and sought help from the communal police. A few minutes and several phone calls was enough to organise transport both by sea and by land, and prepare the operating theatre to take the poor patient. Easier said than done. Once the first call had arrived at the centre, we had to find a trusted volunteer to organise the transport to the hospital at Livorno, to notify the vet (who lives 60 km away), and to track down the director and two other volunteers. As soon as the box was opened, it was obvious that the situation was very serious. The bird was in great pain and looked very thin. A piece of fishing line was hanging from its beak; it was throwing up blood because it had swallowed a large fishing hook. If the hook was deep it must have struggled a lot, and in so doing made the wounds to its throat and stomach worse. We really should take X-rays to know where to operate, but there is no time to do so. The vet tries to find the object with an endoscope. It is already nine, and at last the shag is on the operating table.

The endoscope goes deep but it is impossible to see very much. Then luckily, the hook appears on the screen: it is stuck in the lower part of the oesophagus. A sigh of relief from everyone; if the hook had not been found, everything would have been so much more complicated, and it would have been necessary to carry out a very delicate operation. With help from the endoscope the hook is withdrawn and skilfully removed. The danger is over; the outcome better than expected. The vet waits for the patient to wake up, then lays it down in a box heated by infrared lamps. Another hour and the drip is finished; we can all go home, excited that the operation went well."

This story has a happy ending: after some time spent in an aviary, the shag was set free on the coast. Over the summer it was sighted several times in the area, and thanks to ringing, it was identified every time it went to dry its wings on a rock. Today, with every new sighting, the bird reminds us how important those few hours of overtime really were.

We talk to...

Dr. Renato Ceccherelli, Medical Director of the Cruma

How many animals do you treat every year at the Cruma?

"More than 2600, of which 300 are sea and aquatic birds, 300 are birds of prey (which are generally transferred to the LIPU Bird of Prey Centre) and 2000 are birds from all the other wild species, largely young which arrive in the summer season. The number of birds we treat is amongst the highest in Italy."

What are the principal causes of injuries to sea and aquatic birds?

"Shooting is still the most important cause of injury; followed by discarded fishing tackle, including legs tangled in fishing line, and the swallowing of hooks. This is followed in turn by impact wounds, birds covered in oil, and environmental poisoning."

What percentage of birds are saved?

"On average, more than half the sea and aquatic birds that are treated in the centre are returned to nature. If you take into account the bad condition these birds are in when they arrive, it really is a very high percentage."

What is the Cruma?

"The Cruma is a specialised centre, modelled after the Bird of Prey Rescue Centre at Sala Baganza near Parma. It is a joint operation, fully justified by the ecological importance that seabirds have in their natural habitat. Besides their role as consumers in the food chain, seabirds are reliable indicators of the state of health of our seas and of our coasts. The diversity that underlies the apparent homogeneity of gulls, for instance, has deep roots, which reach far back into the evolution of these species, and which gives them differing degrees of adaptation to changes in their habitat. We have noticed different feeding habits and a greater or lesser degree of adaptation to changes in the availability and quality of their prey. A good example is the high adaptability of the Yellow-legged Gull, and the total lack of resistance to environmental deterioration, such as coastal development and pollution, of Audouin's Gull."

OUR COMMITMENT TO SAFEGUARD THE ENVIRONMENT BY EDUCATING THE NEXT GENERATION

by Paola Ascani

Member since 1974 and education officer for LIPU

"He had been planting trees for three years in that lonely place. He had planted 100,000 of them, and 20,000 were beginning to grow... His name was Elzéard Bouffier." These are the words of a beautiful story called "The man who planted trees", by Jean Giono, the story of a simple shepherd who had planted innumerable oak trees over a long time on his land in Provence, to leave to those who had not yet been born. Getting involved with education about the environment is like planting trees, bringing a message of life and beauty, getting people to understand and see something that is all around, having new eyes, and above all having the patience to stop and listen to whatever nature has to say to you. So just as with trees, where not all have the strength and energy to grow, so also with children, who are the main recipients of educational projects: some will not be able to receive the message. However there will always be some who grasp the word, the visual experience, an emotion, a sensation which they will carry inside themselves and which they will try to experience again. When you find out that the children remember you after some years, then you understand that you have left a mark. And this is the most important thing for me: to succeed in transmitting my emotions when for instance I observe birds in their environment, impressions that have stayed with me since my childhood. My first experience of coming close to animals was with two small pigeons in their nest on the roof of the house. It is always more difficult to spread love for the environment in such a technological world. Because of this, we have to arouse the smallest child's curiosity and desire to discover things, to stimulate through the senses: observing the flight of a heron over a river, or a Penduline Tit making its nest can become for children an engaging and unforgettable experience. The important thing is that they believe us. This is why LIPU, with its next Christmas campaign, is promoting and supporting environmental education projects. Because educating people to respect the creatures great and small around them means growing and being aware.

Interview with Marco Columbro.

Why is it important to participate in initiatives like this one?

"One of the greatest emergencies at the beginning of the century concerns the environment itself. Our planet is in crisis, reliable scientists are saying it, a crisis which concerns such vital elements as water and if we do not limit our consumerism we risk social collapse. It has become a priority to organise events like these to raise people's awareness and educate them to respect the environment and to create an awareness that it is necessary to change our behaviour. Because of this it is important to educate children, as they are the future generation who will lead our country and will be affecting future events."

LIPU NEWS

Storks in Calabria

Two more White Stork nests have been located by the LIPU Section of Rende in the provinces of Cosenza and Crotone. With the pair in the Crati valley (Cosenza) three pairs of storks are now breeding in Calabria in 2005. In addition the last high tension pylons on which they have nested, with the agreement of the national electricity board, will be made safe to avoid the risk of electrocuction. Moreover the Council for the Environment in the Province of Cosenza has proposed establishing a Reserve in the middle of the Crati valley to protect the White Stork and other SPEC species which are declining in Europe as a whole.

Taxidermy? No thanks!

Eagles, falcons and other protected species were at serious risk in Campania, where the Region was about to pass a measure, which would have legalised their killing for the purposes of taxidermy. Following protests by LIPU and by LAV, Stefano Buono, the regional Green councillor, blocked the proposal which would have represented a serious attack on legally protected wild fauna. The measure was intended to avoid any type of sanction for whoever wanted to take these animals for the purposes of taxidermy. LIPU thanks the honourable Buono!

Tortoises and birds freed in Naples

A blitz on pet shops in Naples and its province by the Environmental Protection Police Unit and by the LIPU voluntary hunting guard, in order to stop the illegal trafficking of wild animals. This was one of the most important seizures of the last few years, in the course of which about 600 birds were recovered (mainly Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Siskins, Greenfinches) and about 40 tortoises. Six Moroccan and Tunisian people, who were part of an organisation specialising in the illegal selling of these protected animals, were arrested. The birds that were seized were freed in the Variconi Reserve by children and LIPU volunteers. Special thanks to LIPU voluntary guards: Salvatore Sibiglio, Enzo D'Ambrosi and Paolo Russo.

Record numbers of Herons at the LIPU Reserve at Torrile

232 pairs of nesting herons, belonging to at least 7 different species, in an area of only 2.5 hectares. With these numbers the LIPU Reserve at Torrile (Parma) is the second most important colony in Italy, after Sartirana Lomellina in Pavia. A tremendous result for the Reserve, which was formed 20 years ago. The Reserve had 5 pairs of Grey Herons in 2002, and there are now 65 this year, as well as 102 pairs of Night Herons, 49 pairs of Little Egrets, 8 pairs of Cattle Egrets, 5 pairs of Squacco Herons, 2 pairs of Purple Herons and 1 pair of the majestic Great White Heron. Over the last couple of years the already large population of Herons in the Torrile Reserve has been joined by two other prized species: a pair of the rare Bittern and 6 pairs of Little Bittern. The Reserve, therefore, has all the 9 species of Herons which can be seen in Italy. This is a result that will excite envy in the most famous and extensive Italian and European wetland areas where similar concentrations can no longer be observed in a single place in such a small area as the LIPU Reserve at Torrile.

Robins, falcons and Honey Buzzards are grateful to LIPU-UK

In 2005, our British friends in LIPU-UK have once again supported activities and projects in Italy. Robins in Brescia, Honey Buzzards at the Strait of Messina, 172 IBA, sea birds, raptors at the Livorno Recuperation Centre and hundreds of thousands of migrants in Sicily have all benefited.

LIPU-UK has donated 40,000 euros, which has been used to:

* Support anti-poaching activities in Brescia, with a further 1000 traps being confiscated in October.

* Purchase drugs for treating hundreds of gulls, herons and cormorants at the Livorno Recuperation Centre.

* Support thousands of hours of observations in studying and monitoring the migration of raptors and storks in Sicily. Results included at least 15,000 Honey Buzzards, 80 Booted Eagles and, in one day, 350 Red-footed Falcons.

* Provide map plotting equipment to improve the monitoring of 172 IBA and Nature Network 2000.

We send our grateful thanks, from Ali, to David Lingard and all members and donors of LIPU-UK.

A RETURN TO NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

I have a few snippets of news which have come in over the last few weeks and many are reports of legal wrangling with courts deciding on the issue of derogation.

Lacking a legal background I might be wrong in explaining derogation as a case of, "I don't like this law so I declare that it does not apply to me." - or that is how it seems to me.

Worse, this trump card seems to be played by local as well as national governments which can lead to conflict where the state accepts the law and regions claim derogation.

* * *

Veneto Regional Authorities under attack for derogation of hunting.

A judge in Verona has condemned a hunter for having killed eight chaffinches, species in deroga under regulations approved by Veneto Regional Council. He was fined 800 euros and costs. This has caused a real storm amongst hunters, and their supporters at Regional Council. The sentence confirms that regulations to allow derogation passed by Veneto in 2002 do not protect 55,000 hunters from killing protected species even under such derogation. Even though such activities may appear to be sanctioned by Regional derogation, in fact they remain prohibited under the over-riding State law 157/92. In his judgement the judge declared that it was inadmissible for a Regional law to downgrade to an administrative illegality conduct that elsewhere in Italy continued to be subject to criminal proceedings.

* * *

The Regional Administrative Tribunal of Liguria has provisionally suspended the enactment of the Regional Council's decision of 23 September. It authorised, by derogation, the killing of up to a total of 183,000 Chaffinches, as well as up to 150 starlings per person during the season. Both these species are on the protected list.

From 8 October anyone who kills up to 5 Chaffinches can be fined 206 euros. For killing Starlings or more than 5 Chaffinches they will be reported to the police and also have their guns and ammunition confiscated by the investigating officer, under national hunting legislation.

* * *

Now some better news:

The decision by the Province of Parma to abolish the use of live decoys has been confirmed by the Council of State.

Marco Gustin of LIPU welcomes the approval by the Council of State and expresses appreciation for the decision by the Province of Parma. The use of live decoys is a cruel practice and deserves to be eliminated.

The Province of Parma is the first province in Italy to abolish the use of live decoys in hunting. Marco Gustin continues, "We welcome it, and may other administrations follow suit with the same spirit and courage as shown by the Province of Parma".

ANNUAL DRAW 2005

My thanks go to all who took part in our annual draw last year. I am also very grateful to those friends who donated prizes and, in particular, to Carl Zeiss (UK) who gave us a superb pair of binoculars from their new FL range of optics. After expenses the draw raised over £2000 for our work which is described later.

The prize winners were:

1. Jim Sutherland of East Renfrew

2. Ken Jukes of Kidderminster

3. Polly Devlin of Somerset

4. Mr R M Adams from Hastings

5. John Robertson of Glasgow

6. Ian Kendall from Broxbourne and

7. Helene Souva from Manchester.

Thank you again to all who took part and to those who didn't win a prize - try again next year please!

ANNUAL APPEAL 2005

The appeal last year was just as successful as in previous years in raising over £23,700 towards the four projects we supported in Italy which are acknowledged on page 12. This was especially generous as it followed the tsunami appeals by only a few weeks.

As well as donations from members and friends we are grateful for the valuable support we receive from trusts and grant making bodies; I am delighted to be able to thank the following for their generosity.

The A S Butler Charitable Trust donated £100; the Clare Lees charitable trust gave £100; the G W trust gave £350 and the Shirley Pugh Foundation £120; Mr & Mrs Sergison Brooke gave £300; the Peter Smith Charitable Trust for Nature donated £1000; the Udimore Trust gave us £50 and the Valerie White Memorial Trust made a donation of £500.

Dave and Shane Bryan held their series of sales and gardening days to raise £115; Richard Chappell and Ennis Jones held a successful BBQ which gained us £40 and Doreen Hatton, after many years fund raising finally hung up her home collection box and sent us the £10 it contained.

Bird clubs and groups were represented by the Dursley Birdwatching and Preservation Society who made us a grant of £500 while the Hale Ornithologists gave us £100, the RSPB Galloway group raised £200 and the Worcestershire Conservation Volunteers donated £100.

Finally, for another year AISPA, the Anglo Italian Society for the Protection of Animals, the organisation which played such an important role in the founding of LIPU in Italy continued its valued support by sponsoring the entirety of one of our major projects. Long may this partnership flourish.

To these and all other friends and members who helped us throughout the year, we say a sincere Thank You.

APPEAL TO SUPPORT LIPU PROJECTS 2006

Each year we ask our colleagues in Parma to prepare a candidate list of projects for which they would like our help. In September we meet in Parma and have a full day of meetings with the staff when they explain the progress made in the previous year and their hopes and plans for the coming one. It is here that they explain their potential projects, usually six or more from which we will choose just four.

This procedure may seem a little complicated but if we did not reject some of the candidates the Charity Commission would not consider our actions consistent with those of a charity - we would be deemed to be a "feeder" organisation and could lose our charitable status.

The trustees meet soon after the Parma meeting and we debate the merits of the proposals before deciding to fund two major projects and two minor ones; for the coming year, we have agreed to raise funds in 2006 to support:

1. The continuing anti-poaching work at the Straits of Messina in the spring and, in the autumn, in the valleys of Brescia in the north. A quiet satisfaction that this work, over many years, has dramatically reduced the death toll of migrating raptors at Messina cannot allow us to reduce the effort. If the protection camps were not there it is certain that the illegal killing would flare up again in no time. In Brescia, sadly, it is still an uphill struggle and could take many years before attitudes change sufficiently to stop the trapping of small birds for the back rooms of local restaurants. As long as the trade exists that will pay one Euro for a robin, there will be those who will supply that trade.

2. "Sicilia 3". For the last two years our funds have helped the researchers who have surveyed the migration routes and behaviour of the raptors migrating through Sicily. Much has been learned, some surprising, but many years of study are required to understand all the aspects of the migration. However, important though this is, this is not just a scientific exercise, the observers work is dovetailed with that of the protection camps on the mainland side of the strait and text messages detailing the birds' movements are effective in having the protection in the right place at the right time.

3. Linosa is a small island to the south of Sicily and it hosts important colonies of breeding shearwaters. It seems that there is disturbance of the colonies and we will help the provision of a temporary warden who will have an important role in protecting the nesting birds and changing attitudes locally.

4. LIPU is unusual among bird conservation organisations in running recovery centres, or hospitals, for injured birds and these centres are expensive to run. Last year we helped fund CRUMA (see the story on page 8) with medicines and supplies and this year we will again provide funds for medicines and supplies for whichever of the centres have the need.

A NEW THREAT

The anti-poaching campaign in Cagliari, Sardinia, has come to an end.

Volunteeers have confiscated 15,000 snares and many tens of mist nets, principally aimed at Robins, thrushes and Blackcaps. The action was successfully carried out in the Cagliari region in Sardinia from 3 to 10 December. The LIPU volunteers were from Sardinia and other parts of Italy, and were joined by volunteers from LAC, the Italian League Against Hunting. In addition more than a hundred steel mammal traps were also taken. Unfortunately, it is estimated that the number actually confiscated represents only a small proportion of the number being used.

We are reminded that this kind of activity has been illegal in Italy since the 1970s. LIPU intends to give more attention to tackling it and to encouraging local people to report illegal activities to the authorities, as well as abstaining from buying the fruits of such crimes.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

I was wearing my "Victor Meldrew" hat during the hysteria over Avian flu a few weeks ago. Despite the space devoted to the subject by LIPU in this issue, I'd like to offer the following comments by Dr Richard Thomas of BirdLife International. He uses fact rather than supposition and points clearly at man's abuse of birds as a possible cause.

"There is no evidence to date that wild birds can contract H5N1 and carry the disease asymptomatically. No wild bird healthy enough to migrate has ever been found with the deadly strain of H5N1. All wild birds with it have either been sick and dying or dead.

In short, wild birds get H5N1 and they die.

And dead ducks can't fly, so they can't spread H5N1 by migration. All wild bird outbreaks have been quickly self-limiting; the birds that contract it die and the outbreak stops there.

Around 16,000 wild waterfowl have been tested for H5N1 in Hong Kong since 2003. Number of cases of H5N1: zero.

In short, the "evidence" that wild birds are involved in the spread of H5N1 is very weak. They're convenient scapegoats for covering up poor animal husbandry and biosecurity practices though - and they make great headlines for the media who want a good scare story.

Undoubtedly the disease has been spread in Asia, and no doubt it will prove to be the case elsewhere, by the movement of infected poultry and possibly by infected cage birds too.

One very interesting recent revelation is that chicken faeces are dumped in great quantities into fish farms in Vietnam as food for fish. You may know that infected chickens excrete the virus in their faeces and other secretions.

People have confirmed to me that the practice of feeding fish on faeces is widespread in Eastern Europe, where this material is also spread on agricultural land as fertiliser. It may be more than a coincidence that the Croatian Mute Swans died on a fish farm."

I am grateful, as always, to the team who translated this issue so well:

Cicely Adelson, Barbara Avery, Joanna Bazen, Daria Dadam, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley

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


STOP THE MASSACRE

APPEAL 2006

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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