Achievements to date

Central Apennines became active as a rewilding area in late 2013

The Central Apennines rewilding area was officially announced as the sixth rewilding area in our portfolio in October 2013. An association called ‘Rewilding Apennines’ was established in Italy, completely dedicated to the rewilding of this area according to the long-term vision and 5-Year Action Plan agreed with Rewilding Europe.

Marsican brown bear

Marsican brown bear
Bruno D'Amicis / Rewilding Europe

 

General

  • The rewilding strategy for the period 2015-19 aims at connecting the existing protected areas (Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise National Park and Sirente-Velino Regional Park) with corridors for large mammals, especially the brown bear, red deer and wolf. The strategy also includes an increase of the wildlife populations. At the same time, this area is one of the best spots in the whole region to see bears, wolves, red deer, roe deer and wild boar.
  • One of the main goals is to improve the situation for the Marsican brown bear; this work will be carried out in three communities strategically located at the northern border of the Abruzzo National Park, which is still a home to many of the only 50 remaining bears of this kind. Among the planned activities is a long-term lease of a critical area in order to eliminate existing problems with poisoning, poaching and transfer of disease from livestock.

Rewilding

  • The Municipality Council of Gioia dei Marsi officially agreed to sign an agreement with Rewilding Apennines to have direct control of a core area with a minimum surface of about 400 ha (Macrana Gorge and Gioia Vecchio area) used by the bears all year around (including denning).
  • Three villagers hired as Bear Ambassadors were assigned to work in three communities regularly inhabited by bears. They are the ‘eyes and ears’ in the field by making observations, collecting information from third parties, checking possible bear damage and instances of poisoning.
  • There is a great need for their work, as was shown by a very unfortunate case that occurred where a bear was shot in Pettorano sul Gizio area, following the presence of three bears in the village causing some damage. This created a critical situation in the village and Rewilding Apennines was asked to support the installing of electric fences as a mitigation response. A number of 20 electric fences have now been purchased and are providing help in the community.
  • To further reduce the road mortality of bears by spring 2015, works on the Gioia Vecchio – Pescasseroli and Pescasseroli – Opi road sections were completed with optical asphalt bands, panels & lights diverters, over a total of 35 km.
  • Last but not least, an important milestone in the Central Apennines was the signing of a MoU with Abruzzo National Park in October, with the aim to cooperate on extending the bear ambassador network, developing wildlife watching possibilities inside the park, and further reducing road mortality of the Marsican brown bear.

Enterprise

  • The Central Apennines has high potential for wildlife-tourism. Support of local entrepreneurs has started with the development of business plans for wildlife watching hides in several places.
  • As a result, four REC deals have been completed, focusing on developing a new series of wildlife and tourist products, a mountain cottage, two wildlife hides and a Rewilding Flycamp.
  • Several tourism packages have been developed to attract visitors, focusing on the Municipality areas in connection with the Abruzzo National Park.
  • A mountain refuge is being refurbished in Bisegna municipality as part of rewilding enterprise development.

Communication

  • A ‘Bear and Apples’ festival was held in Ortona dei Marsi, which included stands for the sale apples and local products, the Wildlife Adventures company, hiking and biking activities (including an educational hike for young people), and a specific stand for the bear project. Around 300 people visited the festival.
  • In addition, a conference on the Rewilding Apennines Bear Project in the area was organised with around 60 participants.
  • An illustrated leaflet presenting the Rewilding Apennines initiative and the Marsican Brown bear Project was printed (+250 copies) and distributed in all the towns (administration centres, bars, restaurants, stores, travel agencies) within the rewilding area.
  • Various media approached the team, and the area was featured in regional and national TV programmes and newspapers. A German TV mission broadcast a 25-minute programme about the area, people, wildlife and rewilding opportunities.
  • The communication manager, who is a professional photographer, conducted a photo mission, resulting in many high quality images of the area and its landscapes, wildlife and people.