Team leader Mario Cipollone was born in the region and helped to create a vision for conservation and rewilding beyond the protected areas approach. Mario was one of the founding members of “Let’s save the bear”, a small NGO which focuses on the conservation of the species, and in 2018/2019 took over the management of Rewilding Apennines. Under his management, and with the...
The Central Apennines — or the wild heart of Italy, as it’s often known — is home to swathes of naturally and deliberately rewilded habitats. Among thriving biodiversity lives the endangered Marsican brown bear, of which there are only 60 left in the world. A new bear-smart project, based on successful pilots in British Columbia, Canada is helping the local community coexist with the bears and benefit from the tourism they bring.
Species and habitats
The Marsican brown bear is a subspecies of brown bear that only exists in this central part of Italy. Since at least the 15th Century, the bears have been embedded in the traditions, stories, and life of the Apennines’ rural communities. However, due to habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict there are only 60 left in the world, making them critically endangered.
Regional land management practices are not necessarily aligned with rewilding and biodiversity principles and, more often than not, landowners lack sufficient knowledge and adequate support to prevent and mitigate wildlife conflicts. There is no robust landscape approach to conflict mitigation. Over the last six years Rewilding Apennines has been piloting a bear smart community approach - a coexistence model from British Colombia - and is now scaling up the initiative across 16 municipalities, in collaboration with key local stakeholders.
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Visitors to Wildlife Heritage Areas can take part in outstanding wildlife watching experiences that put wildlife first. Staying in a Wildlife Heritage Area helps local communities invest in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, benefitting community well-being and driving forward sustainable practices.
Designated for excellence
Communities achieve Wildlife Heritage Area designation by playing a central role in protecting wild animals and their habitats. With support from responsible travel organisations and wildlife experts, these communities are committed to help turn the tide on biodiversity loss and the climate crisis, adopt a zero tolerance for wildlife suffering in tourism, and advocate for positive change through a willingness to collaborate.
Inspiring local communities to rethink their role in the management of a wild territory is key to the project. By encouraging local communities to consider wild animals as a collective responsibility, the bear smart community approach offers some guidance to local landowners (which are mostly local municipalities) to develop so called “coexistence plans” which can map out...
The bear smart community of Pettorano sul Gizio has been a huge success. In 2015 an adult bear was shot dead by one of the local residents. At that time, a group of local stakeholders, including “Let’s Save the Bear” and Rewilding Apennines, joined together with two municipalities to kick off the first bear smart community in Italy (and Europe). Over the years, and after many...