Translated and reviewed by Daniel Farey-Jones
Why is this new association for the protection of the Marsican brown bear necessary? Above all because there has been no improvement in the precarious situation this species is in, despite the renewed commitment and concern (in words at least) shown by the organisations responsible for protecting it. There is a real risk that this bear population declines to a point where the species’ extinction becomes inevitable.
A huge effort to research and monitor the Marsican brown bear, its habitat and the threats it faces has already been made by a team from the University of La Sapienza of Rome working with the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise’s Scientific Service. This work produced the essential Action Plan for the Protection of the Marsican Bear (referred to as PATOM for short).
This plan was initially endorsed by every political and administrative authority in the area that contains the bears’ primary habitat. However, it seems to have been forgotten already and is being ignored in decisions about the management of Marsican brown bear territory. There is a risk the plan becomes a worthless piece of paper or worse, the epitaph on the tomb of the Marsican brown bear.
It is essential to immediately expand the area covered by the National Park to protect the bears’ habitat by keeping certain areas out of the clutches of land speculators in perpetuity (such as the Monte Greco zone). But we also have to raise public awareness about the danger the bears are in and how important it is for them to survive. We need to show this is a cultural emergency for the whole country, not just Abruzzo and the Apennine region.
We have to get everybody to see that stopping central Italy’s bears from dying out is as important as preserving archeological treasures like Pompeii.
The importance is understood by many of my friends, by the researchers who have spent years tracking these ghost-like creatures, by the many park and forest rangers obsessed with their ‘big beast’ and by the ordinary bear enthusiasts I’ve met by chance in bear territory. And this has led a group of us who are desperate for the Marsican brown bear to survive to form the Salviamo l’Orso Association in a bid to pass our awareness on to the wider public. If Pompeii was destroyed no person would stand idly by, archaeologist or not. So why should mankind deny the Marsican brown bear the right to live in the Abruzzese woods, its home for centuries? The bears have made the woods a magical place that has captured the imagination of thousands of people across Europe. Tourists treasure these elusive animals, coming back year after year in the hope of catching a glimpse of them or even just seeing their traces.
Salviamo l’Orso applauds the important role that other environmental associations have played in warning the public how close the bears are to extinction, but these associations are fighting on many different fronts. We can help in the fight for cultural awareness mentioned earlier as well as working to deliver concrete actions and activities. This is not just about influence. We will also find sponsors and private donations that will really help the bears.
We plan to follow the example of other foundations in Europe and North America that have been working effectively to conserve bear species (Fundacion oso pardo and Vital Ground to name just two). In summary, Salviamo l’Orso wants to achieve tangible interventions, as well as fighting for cultural and political influence.
My hope is that things turn around and within the space of a few years we will be able to look at “our” bear’s future with more optimism.
The mission we’re embarking on is challenging, and some may not have much hope given that Italy today is seemingly only interested in material things. But recent victories like the incredible recovery in bear populations in Cantabria and Asturias in Spain and closer to home in Trentino prove that trends can be reversed and that’s what we are determined to try.
Stefano Orlandini – President