A large and particularly attentive audience followed the works of the Congress on “Endangered Large Carnivores and Carrion Birds in Europe”, which the Gran Sasso-Laga National Park organised in Teramo on October 13th and 14th, in the framework of the LIFE PLUTO Project.
Speakers from several European countries reported on the conservation of wolves, bears, and several species of carrion birds, and analysed their main causes of mortality, which sometimes jeopardise the survival of the species itself.
Mr. Emilian Stoynov and PhD Atanas Grozdanov from FWFF took a part at the Conference. “Wolf and vultures. Positive or negative interactions” was presented by Mr. Stoynov to the wide audience of mammalian and birds’ experts all around Europe. The presentation was a visual summary of an article “Is the Wolf Presence Beneficial to Vultures in Europe Considering Man/Wolf Conflict?” by a group of Bulgarian outstanding scientists and practitioners.
On the first convention day, speeches mainly focused on naturalistic aspects regarding large carnivores and carrion birds, and special attention was devoted to projects concluded or ongoing in Europe in favour of these animals.
As far as Italy was concerned, very positive experiences were presented, such as the reintroduction of the bearded vulture on the Alps, of the red kite in southern Tuscany, and of the griffon vulture in Bulgaria, but the terrible situation of the Egyptian vulture was also underlined: this species is on the verge of extinction and needs urgent and well-structured safeguard measures.
On the second day, typically veterinarian topics were tackled together with conservation issues, thus promoting debate and reflection on themes such as the use of anti-inflammatory veterinary drugs which may be lethal for birds of prey, the role and management of feeding stations for birds of prey (“carnai”), and the serious consequences of lead poisoning on many species.
On both days, several critical issues were examined as regards bears and wolves, emphasising how most problems, both in Italy and in other countries, are linked with human activities, and consist above all in collisions with vehicles and in poaching; natural phenomena and different pathologies represent further dangers for these animals. Experts from the Gran Sasso-Laga Park shared their long-standing experience of study and support of the wolf, whereas experts from the Abruzzo-Lazio-Molise National Park reported on the status and problems of the Marsican brown bear.
Electrocution, collision with power lines or wind turbines, disturbances in the breeding grounds, and poisoning were identified as the main threats to the populations of carrion birds.
Sadly, poisoning often occurred in the various speeches, thus confirming it as an important cause of death for many species in several European countries, and strengthening the conviction that specific and well-structured measures are needed to counter it.
In Italy, this is the purpose of the LIFE PLUTO Project, carried out by the Gran Sasso-Laga Park and the State Forestry Corps, and whose main actions consist in using Anti-poison Dog Units, training State Forestry Corps staff, sensitising and involving local population and, within the Park, managing a feeding station for birds of prey together with local breeders.
Poisoning is having a particularly devastating impact on griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures and cinereous vultures in the Balkans, and on several species of carrion birds in Spain, which remains however the European stronghold of these birds.
Convention works proved extremely stimulating not only because of the variety of topics and species concerned, but also thanks to the multiple points of view offered by the speakers: veterinarians, biologists, naturalists and ornithologists from Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Croatia and Bulgaria delivered high-level speeches.
Interestingly, experts remarked how the conservation of large carnivores and of carrion birds share certain aspects, but diverge on others, and how these differences need to be properly evaluated, in order to design the most suitable conservation strategies.
Around two hundred participants, including staff from Parks and State Forestry Corps, biologists, naturalists and veterinarians, as well as students from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Teramo, interacted with the speakers, prompting in-depth analysis, debate and exchange of experiences.
On October 15th, the staff of the LIFE PLUTO Project accompanied a large group of convention speakers and participants in a walk within the Gran Sasso-Laga National Park.
The convention programme can be downloaded here