And then there were three..

This weekend we finished our third case study in the Po Delta. Once again we leave the site being happy with the place we visited and the people we met. And, once again, we have received contrasting versions on the same issue. However, regardless of who the informant is, each of them is usually happy to tell us their stories, their experiences, the articles they wrote or the person they sued, and their anecdotes are always accompanied by strong emotions and sincerity.

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Check out the video from one of the private reserves of the Po Delta https://vimeo.com/76903691

The Venetian part of the Po Delta is a fascinating reality. The ‘arms’ of the river have created an incredible net of lagoons, little streams and reed beds. Although a significant part of the wetland was dried some decades ago for agricultural purposes, there still are outstanding lakes, or ‘valleys’ as they call them here, were aquatic birds have found there Eden. In particular, the privately owned parts of the delta are those with the highest number of beasts. This is mainly due to the fact that the owners would pay a lot of money to maintain and conserve these areas, which then become much more attractive for wildlife than the ‘public’ bits (including within the protected area!) which are much more degraded and less frequented by wild animals. Accordingly, and paradoxically, it becomes almost a rarity to see as many birds in the public lands as in the private areas. Since local hunters cannot afford to pay the fee to hunt in the private reserves (the existence of this fee is not official, but has been confirmed by all the people we talked to, including the mayor of the town), they would be incredibly penalized and would be able to see – and thus hunt – only a meagre proportion of the overall fauna living in the delta. Authorities, as well as environmental groups, would close an eye as they know that the work the owners of the private ‘valleys’ are doing is essential and irreplaceable to maintain at least some portions of the habitat high quality, without which the uniqueness of this area might seriously be undermined. However, this does not solve the issue of overall degradation of the delta…

As we were invited and accompanied by a local fisherman to have a boat trip around the delta, we admired the beauty, but also the abandonment of some parts of this unique wetland. There is much uncertainties on how the situation will be tackled by politics, but local people are strongly convinced that instead of focusing on what they consider small issues such as more or less sporadic events of poaching (and that are strongly emphasized by local media), a large-scale project of requalification of the delta would be the ideal and most urgent approach to have. Otherwise, as Italians say, ‘you would look at the finger, instead of looking at the moon’…

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This week we will head to Milan and start our fourth – and last – case-study in the Brescia province, the ‘hottest’ place for hunting and poaching according to environmental groups.. Let’s see how things go and to what extent the experiences of the first three case-studies will help us to better tackle this new site. We look forward to it!

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3 responses to “And then there were three..

  1. I am confused about where the hunters are allowed to hunt. They can hunt for free on some public lands? And for a fee on some private lands (why is this unofficial?)? Is the perception of a poaching problem holding back restoration plans, or just distracting from them?

    Restoration of the Po Delta sounds like a great project for EC 2020 funding!

    • In Italy hunters are actually allowed to enter private land to hunt (no other Italian citizen can do this) as well as public land. However they cannot enter private hunting reserves and these are usually heavily and jealously guarded to avoid this. What is unofficial is the process by which some hunters are allowed to hunt in these hunting reserves. You can access by invite only and no one knows the actual fees that are paid for this service, we heard it can cost around 100,000 euros per hunting season! This makes the whole situation slightly perverse and highly conflictual thus distracting from a large scale restoration plan that would need the involvement of all the stakeholders!

  2. Thanks, more and more interesting. Nothing makes a research project more fun that a couple of judiciously perverse situations!

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