The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - August 26

Despite forest fires, overbuilding, hunting and poaching, for at least the last 30 years the wildlife population has been showing signs of a major, albeit unexpected, recovery. Red and roe deer and wild boars have returned to much of the Apennines after being forced out more than a century ago.

In 1970 there were fewer than 100 wolves; today there are over 500 and they have spread from the Abruzzi up to the Alps. Brown bears had disappeared from the Trentino and the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions; now they are back. Once just an occasional presence on the ponds of Sardinia, thousands of pink flamingo pairs now nest in lagoons along the coast.

The last specimen of the bearded vulture was killed in 1912, and today the birds once again fly over the Stelvio and Gran Paradiso National Parks. The European lynx had not been sighted for almost a century, and is now seen in many areas in both the Alps and Apennines.

In the 1960s the Sardinian red deer was extinct in Corsica and barely surviving in Sardinia. There are many more today, with over a thousand in the WWF Monte Arcosu Oasis in Sardinia alone. Many of the species of birds that were totally or virtually extinct have returned to nest in our marshes.

There are a number of reasons for this “wildlife renaissance”. First and foremost Italians’ attitudes have changed, influenced by awareness-raising campaigns in the media, promoted by the environmental associations that have sprung up in Italy in the last fifty years. Next, another factor is the decrease in pressure from hunters and the increase in protected areas.

Although decimated every year by fires and zoning, Italy’s woodlands have increased from 20% to 30% of total surface area. This is due to croplands and pastures in remote areas being abandoned, and has allowed quintessential forest-dwellers such as wolves, lynxes, red and roe deer, and boar to spread out again along the Apennines.