The island of Ischia is located just an hour’s ferry ride away from the city of Naples. Its volcanic origins, rich soils, high array of micro-climates, as well as its insularity, make this island a unique biological treasure, with rare species of fauna and flora, and some fascinating examples of island dwarfism (e.g., the rabbit that evolves here is much smaller than the one on the mainland, and very tasty as well). As many other islands dispersed in the Mediterranean, Ischia is an important break point for many species of migratory birds, during their spring and autumn journeys to and from Africa.
Have a look at the video to get a feel for this island! https://vimeo.com/76035195
Historically, particularly during the spring migrations, local people – especially those with strong farming traditions – would literally harass the black waves of birds that would obscure the skies of the island. Every type of hunt was a good one: shooting, several types of trapping – such as the so-called trappulelle (wooden contraptions with baits, generally earthworms, to attract the predator), and even slingshots, for the immense joy of schoolchildren who would wait for the class break to run out and catch some little bird trying not to be seen by their teacher. Birds were mainly hunted for sustenance reasons. Smaller species, such as starlings, were amassed in clay jars which were big enough to stockpile as much as 700 hundreds birds (see photo), and were preserved in salt and pork fat in order to have some proteins for the winter. Progressively, with the arrival of mass tourism, sustenance hunting disappeared, but the passion for hunting remained. After the promulgation of the law that forbade hunting in spring, many nostalgic hunters would keep going out during the April mornings and hunt as they had always done. What was a popular habit became illegal and poaching was strongly fought by pro-environmentalists groups, until its almost complete disappearance today.
As we have learnt through our first experience the views and ideals of hunters and environmentalists vary greatly…little surprise here! Even the hunting associations that find themselves working alongside some of the “green” groups tell us they struggle to find a point of discussion when the final aim of these is the total closure of hunting in the Italian peninsula. Still Ischia offers us the opportunity to study a social system in which everyone knows each other, a factor that becomes important when a conflict has to be surpassed. Strong family bonds, ancient friendships and economic interests tie the people of the island together in one giant knot that even the most patient grandma would have a tough time untying.. In our brief time here we will try and have a peek into what is a very complex system, in our first 24 hours on the island we have had the luck and the pleasure to meet some fantastic people who have given us a great hand, enough for us to start picking at some of the loose ends of this knot and see where it will take us..