A diverse event calendar saw the Rewilding Apennines team engage with a wide range of people and local communities in 2022, helping to promote rewilding. Their efforts are driving the rewilding movement forward, with real momentum going into 2023.
Building engagement is one of the core objectives of Rewilding Europe’s “Strategy 2030“, our pioneering and ambitious plan for advancing and scaling up rewilding through to the end of the decade. In the Central Apennines rewilding landscape in Italy, a diverse calendar of events held throughout 2022 helped to promote rewilding to a wide range of people and local communities, informing and inspiring in equal measure. The rewilding movement in the area now has real momentum going into 2023, helping to enhance the positive impact of local nature recovery.
“The last twelve months were really successful in terms of outreach, connecting people with nature, and getting them involved with rewilding,” says Rewilding Apennines Communications Officer Angela Tavone. “From bears and vultures to crayfish and the socio-economic benefits of wilder nature, we managed to cover many species and topics in our events, helping to give people of all ages a better understanding and appreciation of rewilding, including local entrepreneurs.”
Scaling up rewilding
Located 45 kilometres northeast of Rome, in the province of Lazio but close to the border with Abruzzo, Vallinfreda is a small village of around 300 residents. As with many communities in the Apennines, long-term rural depopulation here has had a range of negative impacts. In October 2022, the municipality of Vallinfreda signed an agreement with Rewilding Apennines to collaborate on actions that are good for both nature and people.
In November, Rewilding Apennines and a range of partners followed up on this agreement by organising an event titled “Rewilding meets the community of Vallinfreda”. Around 40 people came together, along with representatives of Rewilding Apennines, to discuss opportunities to enhance wild nature and the social, economic and cultural benefits that this can deliver.
“It was so interesting to learn about the ecology of griffon vultures and the benefits they provide,” says Giuseppe Puligani, a 61 year-old livestock breeder from Vallinfreda. “It’s a beautiful thing that they have returned to this area after hundreds of years. A real step forward towards rewilding would be to distribute information about low-impact breeding and agriculture models which would help local breeders and farmers coexist better with wildlife.
Vultures in the spotlight
In February 2022, a grant from French philanthropic foundation Fondation Ensemble kicked off efforts to advance and diversify rewilding in the Central Apennines. The grant, which is being supplemented by funding from Rewilding Europe, is currently being used by the Rewilding Apennines team to enhance and reintroduce populations of three keystone species in the area – the griffon vulture, Apennine chamois, and white-clawed crayfish. In addition, a grant from the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) has enabled the Rewilding Apennines team to tag a number of griffon vultures with GPS transmitters, and to investigate and address the main threats to the species, particularly poisoning.
The second half of 2022 saw a number of events related to these three species and their rewilding. The griffon vulture was the subject of a popular talk and photographic exhibition in Pettorano sul Gizio at the end of July, with around 60 of the town’s residents attending, including many young people. The Giovenco Teatro Festival, an annual nature-focused festival that takes place in the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park in August, saw a griffon vulture habitat discovery walk led by Nicolò Borgianni, the Rewilding Apennines Vulture Field Officer.
“It’s always interesting to see how even people who live a short distance from a colony of griffon vultures are unaware of the presence of these birds, which are frequently connected to exotic and distant landscapes,” says Nicolò. “One of the most interesting aspects of these events is to see members of the public re-evaluate their perception of scavengers, such as vultures – from animals considered useless and harmful to animals capable of performing a miraculous role in nature.”
Chamois & crayfish
Working together with local partners, the Rewilding Apennines team kicked off a chamois reintroduction programme in June. “At the pace of the Chamois”, an event held in December, saw 25 young people take part in a hike led by Fabrizio Cordischi in Sirente Velino Regional Park. The Rewilding Apennines Field Officer shared his knowledge of this Apennine subspecies, which is both iconic and ecologically important, and explained how rewilding is helping in the animal’s recovery.
“In a beautiful setting we saw the chamois and listened to its story, which allowed us to reflect on the fundamental importance of conservation and understand rewilding better,” says 22 year-old Floriana Rossi, who took part in the hike. “It was great to exchange views with people who share a common goal: to protect nature and the immense heritage it offers us.”
Around 25 people also attended an event titled “The comeback of the white-clawed crayfish” in November, which saw members of the Rewilding Apennines team and partners share knowledge and expertise of this endangered species, including locals, as well as people and students from the Lazio region.
The growth of the Central Apennines rewilding movement in 2022 was mirrored by an increase in online engagement. The social media and website metrics of Rewilding Apennines all showed healthy increase, when compared with figures from 2021:
- Facebook: followers up 23%
- Instagram: followers up 47%
- Twitter: followers up 47%
- Youtube: subscribers up 81%
- Website*: users up 85%
- LinkedIn**: followers 935
* the Rewilding Apennines website was launched in March 2021
** the Rewilding Apennines LinkedIn account was created in October 2021
The Rewilding Apennines team will continue their outreach programme in 2023, spreading the positive message about rewilding in a variety of places and communities in and around the rewilding landscape. They will organise several griffon vulture-related events, for example, close to an important nesting site for the birds. The team wants to install a couple of signs for climbers nearby, in order to minimise disturbance to the birds.
“When people and communities learn about our rewilding efforts in the Central Apennines, and the benefits wilder nature can deliver, they are generally really enthusiastic and want to get involved,” says Angela Tavone. “I’m looking forward to another productive year of engagement.”
Moving beyond the Central Apennines, all the rewilding landscape teams are currently working hard on engagement. Look out for numbers on outreach and engagement for all our landscapes in Rewilding Europe’s Annual Review 2022, which will be published before the summer.