Po Delta: one wetland many faces

 MBH Itinerary 2C

After a couple days rest in Rome we set off again to explore two “hot” migratory bird hunting areas in the North of Italy, the Delta del Po and the Brescian Hills. Autumn was quickly upon us, and after two weeks immersed in the micro-climate of Southern Italy we had to dig up our winter wear from the depths of the chaos that was our car. The mists of the North greet us in medieval Ferrara as we prepare for our third case study in the Italian peninsula. We are just a short drive away from the Po Delta, a massive expanse of land created by the silt and mud transported by Italy’s largest river, the Po. This is also one of the last remaining large wetlands in Italy and harbors an incredible array of species, with over 300 species of birds, both migratory and not. This is one of the main reasons we have chosen this location as we wish to see what the situation in Italy’s prime migratory bird hotspot is like and what is being done to protect them.

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Our methodology and line of action is well polished by now and, just as happened in the South, we are warmly greeted by the inhabitants of the Emilia region in the Ferrara province. After talking to hunter associations, environmental groups and national park authorities we quickly get the idea that the hunting situation in this area is not of the gravest and that poaching is very limited. There is strong regulation, a cultural affinity to norms and legislation and a general absence of a long standing hunting tradition in this region that make the affair a possibly simple one. Things do not appear to be the same on the Veneto front. As you cross the Po river you enter a new region and a new reality, all along the Emilia bank of the river is a ZPS zone (Special Protected Area, EU) that stops hunters from performing most of their usual activities, but, across the muddy waters this is not the case and those same ducks that are safe on the one side risk their lives on the other.

Italy is governed on multiple scales, from international EU Directives to very local realities. Politics, culture and economics all govern and influence the way and the time scales in which decisions are made and acted upon. A single area may be affected by EU , National, Regional, Provincial, Communal and Park legislation making matters delicate and intricate, especially when the person that has to respect that legislation is illiterate and of old age. Still, with respect to hunting activities there are many that make the most of this situation to speculate and fool not only the wider community but also honest hunters. Again distinctions between hunting and poaching are blurred and trust becomes an issue when the only way to know what a man has hunted is to read his little booklet at the end of the season..

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