The rewilding strategy for the period 2015-19 aims to connect the existing protected areas (Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise National Park and Sirente-Velino Regional Park) with corridors for large mammals, especially the brown bear, red deer and wolf. The strategy also aims to increase local wildlife populations. This area is already one of the best places in the whole region to see bears, wolves, red deer, roe deer and wild boar.
One of the main goals is to improve the situation for the Marsican brown bear; this work will be carried out in three communities strategically located at the northern border of the Abruzzo National Park, which is still a home to many of the 50 remaining bears. Among the planned activities is a long-term lease of a critical area in order to eliminate existing problems with poisoning, poaching and transfer of disease from livestock.
Three villagers hired as “bear ambassadors” were assigned to work in three communities regularly inhabited by bears. They are the “eyes and ears” in the field, making observations, collecting information from third parties, checking possible bear damage and instances of poisoning.
There is a great need for the ambassadors’ work, as was shown by a very unfortunate case that occurred when a bear was shot in Pettorano sul Gizio area, following the presence of three bears in the village causing some damage. This created a critical situation in the village and Rewilding Apennines was asked to provide a solution. The purchase and installation of electric fences has helped to mitigate further human-bear conflict.
To further reduce the number of traffic accidents involving bears, work on the Gioia Vecchio – Pescasseroli and Pescasseroli – Opi road sections were completed by the spring of 2015, with optical asphalt bands, panels & lights diverters installed over a total of 35 kilometres.
Last but not least, an important milestone in the Central Apennines was the signing of a MoU with Abruzzo National Park in October 2015, with the aim of cooperating on an extension of the bear ambassador network, developing wildlife watching possibilities inside the park, and further reducing traffic accidents involving Marsican brown bears.
New fundraising efforts in 2017 to continue and revise the overall project setup.
The Central Apennines has significant wildlife tourism potential. Support of local entrepreneurs has begun, with the development of business plans for wildlife watching hides in several places.
As a result, four REC deals have been completed, focusing on developing a new series of wildlife and tourist products, a mountain cottage, two wildlife hides and a Rewilding Flycamp.
Several tourism packages have been developed to attract visitors, focusing on the municipality areas connected to the Abruzzo National Park.
Thanks to a loan from REC, the high altitude Bisegna Mountain Refuge offers wild nature lovers a unique experience in the heart of Italy’s stunning Apennine mountains. The converted shepherd’s hut welcomed its first guests in July 2017.
A “Bear & Apples” festival was held in Ortona dei Marsi, which included stands for the sale of apples and local products, the Wildlife Adventures company, hiking and biking activities (including an educational hike for young people) and a stand for the bear project. Around 300 people visited the festival.
In addition, a conference on the Rewilding Apennines Bear Project was organised in the area, with around 60 participants.
An illustrated leaflet presenting the Rewilding Apennines initiative and the Marsican Brown bear Project was printed (+250 copies) and distributed in all the towns (administration centres, bars, restaurants, stores, travel agencies) within the rewilding area.
Various media have approached the team, and the area has featured in regional and national TV programmes and newspapers. A German TV mission broadcast a 25-minute programme about the area, people, wildlife and rewilding opportunities.
The communications manager, who is also a professional photographer, conducted a photo mission, resulting in many high quality images of the area and its landscapes, wildlife and people.
Features in prominent magazines like Geo Saison, The Globe and Mail appeared in 2016.
A book about wolves was published by Bruno D’Amicis, a professional nature photographer, at the end of 2016.
A 25-minute documentary featuring renowned TV presenter and Dutch Postcode Lottery Ambassador Humberto Tan showcased Central Apennines rewilding area in 2017.