Abruzzo Bears received a fighting chance when the NGO Salviamo l’Orso was launched in September promising to step in where bureaucracy and jaded multi-cause environmental groups had really failed disastrously in addressing the colonisation of the bear’s natural habitat with as a result just 40 individual bears left.
After my last post after interviewing LIFE Arctos I must admit to feeling far from optimistic of their survival; churlish is the word that comes to mind to describe the people who couldn’t even answer a few follow up emails after facing a gently probing interview .
I was overjoyed to see the newly formed association, created by experts across a number of fields and helping to unify those smaller, less specialist organisations and organise people that just wanted to help. They actively began a cultural lobbying biodiversity battle, calling upon the regional government to stop thinking that protecting the bear was a luxury they couldn’t afford, rather a valued member of its mountains, equal to any archaeological treasure, and one which attracts and brings in as many tourists, generating local income.
Careful Bears on the Road Campaign
After a careful analysis, Salviamo l’Orso strategised how best to protect Abruzzo’s bears in the long term and short term; the charity have launched its first fundraising campaign Careful Bears on the Road to promote bear road safety which additionally will aid the wolves, deer, boars populations that share their habitat.
Abruzzo’s marsican bears come back down from feeding on buckthorn in the mountains after the heat of summer to literally get fat ready for a successful winter hibernation that will see them stay on lower ground till the spring. The success of their hibernation depends on a well stocked autumn larder of acorns, beech and chestnuts and roots. If their larder is deforested or they are frightened away by the guns from a hunting season that begins in September, their larder trails extend and they stray onto the road and into human conurbations. Common sense prevailed in the last hunting season when due to the drought and lack of vegetation hunting was banned from Abruzzo‘bear’ areas within the national parks encouraging them to stay put.
The charity looked at Yosemite National Park which had introduced bear road safety and decided to follow their lead and strategically introduce:
- Reflective road studs
- Visual Bear Warning Signs written in Italian & English
- Electronic speed detectors
- Sound Speed Bars
- Roadside Maintenance
- Increased Police Presence
- Awareness campaign to local commuters, bus drivers and bikers
These changes will take affect between SR 83 “Marsicana”, the main road and tourist trail that winds through the stunning Oak, Juniper, Maple and Ash woods between the villages of Gioia dei Marsi and Gioia Vecchio up to Pescasseroli.
How to Help
You can donate a small amount directly to the Careful Bears on the Road campaign who hope to receive their target of €12,000 by May 2013 to complete the project by the time the bears came back down from the mountains; alternatively you can help spread the word about Abruzzo’s bear and become a member of Salviamo l’Orso for just €20 to help fund the administration.
Bear Photography © Francesco Culicelli