We publish below an interview to the President of Salviamo l’Orso, Mr. Stefano Orlandini, appeared on Primato, magazine by ASI – Italian Sports Alliance.
Please … Save the Bear!
by Luisa Santiloni
Mr. Orlandini, you are the President of the Association Salviamo l’orso, an association interested in the conservation of the Marsican brown bear. Which threats affect this species?
The Marsican bear population – still living in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise and in its immediate vicinity – is in serious danger to become extinct in the next 10-20 years if its demographic trend does not reverse. This mainly means to take a series of measures to reduce human-induced mortality (poaching, poisoning, vehicle-bear collisions, diseases) and strengthen security measures to protect the natural environment of the bear (stop land consumption!).
Yours is not the only association focused on the protection of the Marsican bear. Why the need for the creation of a new one? If there are any, what are the relations with the other and what are the main differences?
The main difference between “Salviamo l’Orso – Association for the conservation of the Marsican brown bear” and other environmental associations which over the years have dealt with the Marsican bear is that we are focused on the Apennine bear (Ursus marsicanus) and the habitat in which this species is living and those areas in which it lived in the past and, hopefully, it might live again in the near future. Other associations are dedicated, commendably, to so many other issues ranging from the protection of biodiversity in general to the fight against global warming, but this necessarily means that sometimes their commitment to the Marsican bear is not as timely and constant as the gravity of the situation demands. “Salviamo l’Orso” also differ in the desire to promote and finance projects aimed at mitigating the specific causes that threaten the species (such as the mitigation of the risk of vehicle-bear collision) by sponsors and fund-raising.
How do you explain the increasing number of subjects dealing with the protection of the Marsican bear in relation to the existence of PATOM (Action Plan for the Protection of the Marsican Bear), signed by all the political and administrative authorities of the geographical area including the primary habitat of this species?
The PATOM was signed by those entities that, for administrative, geographical or institutional reasons, are in charge of the bear, its habitat and any policies regarding it. The subscribers are Regions, Provinces, authorities of protected areas, the Forestry Corps, which monitors the territory, the University of Rome that performs scientific research on the species and lays down guidelines on the conservation policy of the species. The PATOM, if fully and properly applied, would be nothing more than a set of requirements and coordination between all of these entities.
On the website of your Association it is written that the future of the bear in central Italy has the same deep meaning for Italy as the preservation of a unique archaeological site in the world like Pompeii. Could you explain what you mean by this comparison?
Exactly what we wrote. An animal species such as the Marsican bear is part of our historical and cultural tradition as well as Pompeii or any other archaeological site. Not only that: as well as Pompeii, the bear is a source of tourist attraction and engine of a series of sustainable businesses, which must be compatible with its existence. Every year in the PNALM tens of thousands of naturalistic tourists arrive from all over Europe – sometimes from outside Europe. They come because having a chance to see, if you are lucky, a bear in the wild is something rare in Europe. It is possible only here in Abruzzo or at some extreme northern latitudes in Russia and Finland. As Pompeii is a unique site in the world, so “our” bear, being a particular subspecies, is even more precious!
The environment in Italy seems to be seen as an obstacle on the way of progress, despite it represents a valuable resource. Is it possible a different declination of environmentalism from what we have historically experienced?
Actually I would invert the question. Is it possible a different declination of economic development from what we Italians have historically experienced, especially after World War II to this day? Will it still be possible in the future to wreak havoc on our territory as governments of all colours have been doing indiscriminately in the last sixty years and more? I hope not and I hope that policies of conservation of our environmental, historical and cultural heritage wipe out all short-term economic or robbery-like appetites. In our country even alternative sources of energy have been misused, often favouring environmental degradation rather than being a real resource, as rightly pointed out a few days ago (November 2012 ed) by the columnist Ernesto Galli della Loggia in the Corriere della Sera.
As most of the non-profit organization that animate our social fabric, your Association is composed mostly by volunteers. Can you tell us why you think that so many people have chosen to devote their free time and energies to a group or a cause, without necessarily obtaining anything concrete in return?
Because working on something or for someone you love is very rewarding and often pays us off more than unsatisfactory or frustrating professional and working commitments.