One of the biggest challenges faced by conservation is the awareness (or lack thereof) of initiatives, of work going on on the ground to protect vital species, and of the species themselves that desperately need support. When such initiatives exist in little-known areas of rural regions, and work with species that are even less familiar, this challenge becomes only greater.
Deep in the forests of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise and unbeknown to so many in the wider world, one such initiative is carrying out invaluable work to restore the population and habitat of a very special and unique creature: the Marsican brown bear.
WHO ARE THESE URSINE SUPERHEROES?
Created in 2012, Salviamo l’Orso strive to grow Marsican brown bear numbers within the remote National Park. Their ultimate goal is to expand the area in which the bears can roam securely and without threat, ensuring peaceful coexistence with members of the surrounding villages and towns.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THESE BEARS?
Well, first of all we’ll let it sink in that these bears live just two hours outside of Rome (yes, the place you’ve probably visited in search of food, wine, architecture and history) because that alone makes them pretty special. But beyond that, this subspecies of brown bear are totally unique because they’ve been genetically isolated for over a century – there are only 50 of them in the wild.
HOW DOES SALVIAMO L’ORSO WORK?
By educating younger generations within the communities local to the Abruzzo region, Salviamo l’Orso aim to raise awareness of “best-practice” methods for human-bear coexistence within the Marsican brown bear’s distribution range.
There are multiple prevention methods that Salviamo l’Orso work tirelessly to put in place in order to limit human-bear conflict. They are currently involved in an extensive canine vaccination programme to safeguard against a number of diseases being passed onto the bears. As well as this, their efforts are involved in building electric fences to protect livestock and creating traffic initiatives that aim to reduce vehicle collisions with bears.
Salviamo l’Orso are also instrumental in ensuring that there is enough food availability for the bears. By pruning fruit trees in abandoned orchards outside the villages and small towns, they aim to create ongoing and abundant food sources.
All of the work carried out by Salviamo l’Orso requires ongoing monitoring to ensure its effectiveness and to provide the best possible support for bear response teams. Furthermore, research is also vital in highlighting areas that hold potential for expansion of the bear popular population – the ultimate goal of the organisation.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
It might seem easy to think that there’s little point in trying to revive such a small population, but that’s a defeatist attitude that TENT as well as Salviamo l’Orso do not entertain! These bears play a vital role in their unique ecosystem, which in turn as a huge impact on the connecting ecosystems and wider biodiversity of the region. Ensuring a rich biodiversity is the key to growing and restoring Europe’s last wild places, and deep in the forests of Abruzzo National Park is about as wild as you can get!
Perhaps the concept of “out of sight, out of mind” is too strong to overcome for some, but that’s where TENT comes in. We want to change the game and raise awareness of projects like Salviamo l’Orso’s so that we can overcome this barrier of ignorance. A recent quote from Alexandira Ocasio-Cortez sums up the fight to save the Marsican brown bear rather well: “I hope that more people will ignore the fatalism of the argument that we are beyond repair. We are not beyond repair. We are never beyond repair.”
We think Alexandria should be getting an invitation to speak at our next event…
visit the bears