Over 100 participants from Italy and beyond came together to discuss rewilding-related topics at a three-day seminar in the Central Apennines last week. The event helped the local rewilding team raise awareness of rewilding and its positive impacts, and to establish and strengthen relationships with a wide range of stakeholders.
A three-day seminar held in the town of Gioia dei Marsi in the Central Apennines rewilding landscape last week proved to be a great success, with over 110 participants enjoying the diverse programme and a mix of speakers from Italy and beyond. Organised by the Rewilding Apennines team, and sponsored by Rewilding Apennines, Rewilding Europe and Exodus Travels, it was the first rewilding-focused seminar organised on a national scale in Italy.
Entitled “Rewilding in Italy. State of the art and future perspectives”, the aim of the seminar was to promote the rewilding approach and rewilding in the Central Apennines, and to establish and enhance cooperation between the Rewilding Apennines team and a wide range of individuals and organisations involved in conservation and rewilding. Attendees included Italian and European conservation professionals, students, politicians, and representatives of national and regional parks, ISPRA (the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research), and Italian members of the European Rewilding Network. Non-Italians enjoyed a real-time translation service.
A wide-ranging programme
Divided into four sessions, the rewilding seminar covered a wide range of themes, with participants enjoying cultural events, storytelling, and documentary screenings in the evenings. Over the three days, protected areas, government agencies, local governments, researchers, and NGOs were able to share insights and lessons on nature recovery in the Central Apennines and Italy. There was a significant focus on wildlife comeback and the challenges of coexistence with predators and vultures. River rewilding, habitat restoration for endangered plants, reptiles and amphibians, and marine and coastal rewilding were also covered.
On the first day the Rewilding Apennines team discussed their strategy for 2030, including ongoing efforts to enhance wild nature in the landscape and the benefits such nature provides to local businesses and communities. It also saw Rewilding Europe’s Head of Landscapes Fabien Quétier and Rewilding Europe’s LIFE Project Coordinator Annette Mertens talk about the LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors initiative, through which the Rewilding Apennines team and partners are working to enhance the local population of endangered Marsican brown bears by developing large-scale wildlife corridors and promoting coexistence between bears and local communities. Rewilding Europe’s European Young Rewilders Coordinator Giulia Testa also talked about the legal framework of rewilding.
On the second day the focus shifted to wildlife on the move in Italy, with a look at species in the Central Apennines and beyond. The final day was dedicated to practical rewilding, with presentations on wildlife reintroductions and the protection of species and habitats, environmental restoration initiatives, and strategies to combat biodiversity loss. The seminar ended with a lively roundtable on the future of nature protection and restoration in Italy.
“It was great to see the passion and professionalism of the Rewilding Apennines team at work throughout the event,” says Fabien Quétier. “This was a unique opportunity to explain and discuss what rewilding means to a diverse range of conservationists, protected area managers, and others unfamiliar with the approach.
“There were many students and young people attending who were keen to know what they could do to change things for the better. The final roundtable was a very intense moment when this new generation expressed a wish for more ambition and concrete results for nature. It was both an expression of hope, and a call for urgent action.”
The Rewilding Apennines team carried out a lot of work in October to promote the seminar through different channels and platforms. They collaborated with Emanuele Biggi, an Italian conservationist, photographer and TV celebrity, to present rewilding and their rewilding efforts on Italian national TV – and to promote the seminar – as well as posting sponsored content on social media. They also worked with Italian sustainability platform LifeGate to increase their outreach.
“Through the event itself and the communications around it the team were able to provide a better understanding of rewilding and where this approach wants to go,” says Annette Mertens. “This is positive because until now there is still some confusion in Italy about what rewilding is exactly, and it is still viewed sceptically by many people.”
“Overall the seminar was a success, with prestigious speakers from all over Italy and beyond talking about a wide range of species and topics,” says Giulia Testa. “It was deeply educational and informative. It was great that students and young professionals were given a platform to present their conservation and rewilding-related work, which really empowered them. The mayors of two bear-smart communities had the opportunity to spread the positive message of rewilding and to tell their peers to be more ambitious.”
The rewilding seminar has given Italy’s rewilding movement added momentum.
“The two main goals of the event were raising awareness and networking,” says Rewilding Apennines Communications Manager Angela Tavone. “We wanted to make rewilding visible on a national scale and to demonstrate the positive impact that it is now delivering in the Central Apennines and across Italy. We also wanted to establish and develop new alliances with individuals and organisations so that our work would be better supported and enabled. In both regards, the seminar was fruitful. I’m even more positive about the future of rewilding in Italy now that’s it’s finished.”
Going forwards, the Rewilding Apennines team will maintain the momentum generated by the seminar with more communications and events. Members of the team held a presentation on human-wildlife coexistence at the American embassy in Rome on November 9, and have co-organised an event on human-wolf coexistence on November 11 in the city of Sulmona, which is located within the Central Apennines rewilding landscape.