Engaging local people and businesses is critical to the success of rewilding efforts. In the Central Apennines rewilding area in Italy, two recent community events helped to spread the word about rewilding and connect residents with the wild nature on their doorstep.
Promoting wildlife comeback
Rewilding works to create favourable conditions for the natural return of wildlife species – this is by far the most important tool for wildlife recovery in Rewilding Europe’s operational areas, including the Central Apennines in Italy. Here, rewilding efforts are promoting the comeback of a range of animals – including the iconic yet endangered Marsican brown bear – by enabling and encouraging communities to live in harmony with local wildlife in a number of ecological corridors.
In June, the Rewilding Apennines team organised several events to boost community outreach, educating local people about rewilding efforts and reconnecting them with the wild nature on their doorstep. The first of these coincided with World Environment Day on June 5 (also the official launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration), while June 11 saw a Rewilding Social Club event held in the village of Pettorano sul Gizio – one of the rewilding area’s “Bear Smart Communities“.
On the trail of the bear
The Rewilding Apennines team has recently developed “The Bear Trail”, a 138-km walking and hiking route through the main ecological corridors of the rewilding area (and prime Marsican brown bear territory). On June 5, 20 people enjoyed a guided hike along part of the trail, walking through beautiful landscapes, watching wildlife, and discussing nature conservation and rewilding, mostly in relation to the local bear population.
The hike, which saw the group enjoy a picnic at the Il Lago Refuge in the in the Monte Genzana Alto Gizio Nature Reserve (an ecological corridor connecting the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park and the Majella National Park) generated a range of positive feedback.
“It was great to learn more about rewilding in general and rewilding efforts in the local area,” says Giovanna Ercolino, a wildlife enthusiast who has just bought a house in Pettorano sul Gizio. “Experiencing wild nature in the company of fellow nature lovers is always a pleasure and the hike opened my eyes to the huge potential of rewilding here.”
Antonio Carrara, the mayor of Pettorano sul Gizio and chair of Rewilding Apennines, also took part on the hike and relished exploring the Bear Trail firsthand. “This new route is an excellent way of engaging residents and visitors with the nature of the Central Apennines and local rewilding efforts. By attracting visitors, it will also allow communities in the corridors to benefit economically from wildlife comeback. Establishing new ways to foster coexistence such as the Bear Trail is a real source of pride for a small community like Pettorano sul Gizio.”
Kicking off in 2020, the Rewilding Social Club brings together people from local communities to discuss rewilding-related topics and enjoy food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere. Organised by the Rewilding Apennines team, club events typically involve local food producers and take place in scenic locations within the rewilding area’s ecological corridors. As with the guided hikes along the Bear Trail, the idea is to boost community outreach and connect people with rewilding and nature.
On the evening of June 11, a Rewilding Social Club event was organised in Piazza Zannelli, a beautiful square in Pettorano sul Gizio. Attended by around 25 people, it was hosted by Rewilding Apennines and organised by two local female entrepreneurs – Milena Ciccolella, owner of the Il Torchio Restaurant in Pettorano sul Gizio, and Virginia Sciore from Alla Casa Vecchia, a small family business focused on goat’s cheese products and home-made charcuterie, based in the nearby village of Pacentro. These two villages are connected by the Monte Genzana and Alto Gizio Nature Reserve.
Both Milena and Virginia, who have known Rewilding Apennines for some time and are supportive of rewilding efforts, are intimately familiar with human-wildlife coexistence issues. In addition to owning Il Torchio, Milena is also a beekeeper – her hives are protected from bear damage by an electric fence. The Sciore family own 150 goats, which graze a territory near the border of the Majella National Park – an area which also hosts a population of around 150 wolves.
In addition to tasting and learning about food prepared by Milena and Virginia, guests at the June social club had a chance to learn more about the topic of coexistence and rewilding through the story of both entrepreneurs, with cheese and honey the gastronomic tools bringing this engaging topic to life.
“Sharing the story of my business through the Rewilding Social Club was really rewarding,” says Virginia. “I am excited to be part of this new adventure with Rewilding Apennines and getting to know the people working to improve relations between human and wildlife here. This is something close to my heart.”
“I am always happy to support rewilding initiatives in our Bear Smart Community,” adds Milena. “This year we have also supported the local rewilding volunteer programme by creating a food convention for the young people who come to our rewilding area.”
Want to know more?
- Rewilding in the Central Apennines
- See Marsican brown bears in the wild with the European Safari Company