The Italian Almanac

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howling wolf

Italian News - December 23

Five young wolves will be settling into their new home in Rome over Christmas after being saved from hunger and probable death in Croatia. The wolves arrived at Rome's zoo, or Biopark, on Thursday after the long journey from the Croatian city of Rijeka, where they were born in the local zoo. The zoo recently went bankrupt and had to close, prompting officials at the Biopark to mount an operation to save them from a bleak future living in a small cage with very little to eat.

In Rome the animals, all males, will have a 1,600 square metre enclosure which has been built specially for them. Designed to resemble their natural habitat, it has trees and rocky outcrops. Officials said they could not be released into the wild because after living in captivity they would be ill equipped to survive. On arrival in Rome the wolves appeared nervous as they entered the quarantine area where they must spend the next few days. They perked up at the sight of the fresh meat left them by staff.

Monica Cirinna, animal rights consultant for Rome city hall, said the arrival of the wolves showed that the biopark had left behind its origins as a zoo, where animals were kept in small spaces and with little to make them feel at home. "The rescue of five wolves is the proof that the Biopark is becoming a place where mistreated animals are saved, a place which looks after the rights of all non-human citizens," she said.

The arrival of the predators also has a symbolic value for the city of Rome, which according to legend was founded by Romulus and Remus, twins who were reared by a she-wolf. The image of the wolf has long been associated with the city and one of the local soccer team's still uses the symbol of a wolf's head.