Thank you for your interest about our project “Pasturs-Risk reduction from the return of large carnivores at the Orobie Alps as an occasion of sustainable development for the local community”.
Two important species, which arouse enthusiasm and discussion are returning to the Orobie mountains in the province of Bergamo: the wolf and the bear. The conflict between large carnivores and zootechnical activities is one of the most important causes of persecution operated by people against predators. The reduction of possible damages can be achieved through the adoption of specific prevention measures like the use of guarding dogs, night shelters and fences for livestock and direct surveillance by the shepherd.
An effective protection of flocks decreases the number of attacks by large predators; moreover, the maintenance of traditional livestock management favors the quality of pastures. As you may have already read, the project involves the training of volunteers who will provide knowledge and practical help in the field for all the aspects of the shepherds working day. Volunteers provide to the traditional farming world specific competences and good practices about ecosystems conservation while shepherd contribute with their own experience and deep knowledge of the territory.
Thanks to the project, the local shepherds’ community will benefit from the transmission of knowledge and practices useful in the managing of conflicts with large predators as to reduce the risk of economic damage for shepherds and of poaching for predators. The improvement of coexistence between shepherds and large predators is the better strategy in order to reduce different types of risks: for zootechnical activities from possible predation and for protected species from extinction.
The heart of the project is the encounter between volunteers and shepherds; volunteers offers concrete help to shepherds in their daily activities in the pastures and create an environment of reciprocal trust, which substantiates in a collaboration aimed at the reduction of the mentioned risks.
Hikes in surprising places, amazing night sky, crisp mountain airs: to participate in the project means to live an unforgettable experience while being helpful to shepherd, and in the protection of wolves and bears while sustaining traditional farming.
Specifically, what do we ask to volunteers?
Selected volunteers, after following a mandatory brief course, spend a period in the pastures (min 1 week max 3 months, from June to August) in the Bergamo province, with the flocks (sheep and/or goats), helping the shepherd in his daily activities.
The tasks can consist in the installation/deinstallation of fences, flock’s surveillance, help directing sheepdogs, informing tourists about biodiversity protection and many more. For University students there is the possibility to realize an internship with the acknowledgment of credits, if allowed by their University.
Essential requirements: age between 18 and 45 years, to be adaptable to the work in the open air and mountain hikes, to lodges without many comforts, strong motivation, awareness about the type of volunteering. Further details about how to participate will be provided in the next call.
Pasturs project reunites a partnership of these organizations:
- Cooperativa Sociale Eliante Onlus: the main activities promoted by Eliante are biodiversity protection through the promotion of coexistence models, environmental communication and the sustainable use of natural resources. www.eliante.it
- Coldiretti Bergamo: with more than 1.5 millions of associate members, Coldiretti is the most important organization of agricultural entrepreneurs at Italian and European level. It represents agricultural enterprises as an economical, human and environmental resource with the aim to guarantee to local farmers opportunities of development integrated with the social and environmental needs and interests of the country and local communities. In the province of Bergamo Coldiretti represents the majority of farmers and breeders. Between its objectives there is the valorization of products and traditional agricultural and pastoral activities in the mountains of Bergamo.
- WWF Italy and WWF Bergamo-Brescia: it is an environmental association linked to WWF Italy and to the worldwide WWF network. It operates pursuing the same ideals and objectives of all the WWF network through collaboration agreements. Some of its prior objectives there is the safeguard of endangered species and the promotion at a local and world level of a sustainable management of natural resources. www.wwf.it
- Parco Orobie Bergamasche: it is a forestry and mountain park which, with an extension of about 70000 hectares, represents the biggest area with high wilderness between Lombardy regional parks. It covers the southern versant of the Orobie Alpes and it’s characterized by important mountains, the presence of eagles and ibex and breathtaking views. In administrative terms it covers part of the territories of the Mountain communities of the Seriana, Scalve and Brembana valley, and a total of 44 municipalities.
- Life Eurolargecarnivores: from 2019 Pasturs is taking part in this important European project which aim is to improve the coexistence between human activities and large predators through communication, cross-boundary cooperation and knowledge exchange.
- Regione Lombardia, General Direction for Environment, Energy and Sustainable development: the General direction for Environment, Energy and sustainable development found several LIFE projects for the protection and valorization of biodiversity in the Lombardia region. Thanks to these projects the Lombardia Region has promoted specific actions for the improvement of the conservation status of species and habitats at risk. The Region collaborates with Pasturs project in some synergic actions in the management of large carnivores and with the actions of the project LIFE WolfAlps (editions 2016 and 2017) and LIFE GESTIRE 2020-Natura che Vale of which the Region is partner. www.lifewolfalps.eu | www.naturachevale.it
The project was initially cofounded at 60% by Fondazione Cariplo under the 2015 call “Comunità Resilienti”; this contribution founded the 2016 and 2017 editions of the project. The call “Comunità Resilienti” had has its objective the contribution to initiatives that, starting from environmental issues locally recognized, were capable of promoting the overall resilience of the communities.
The project aims to mitigate the risk for shepherd in the Orobie alps due to the arrival of large predators, through the presence of volunteers capable to provide knowledge and concrete help in the field in all the aspects of their working life.
The mitigation of this risk, improve the quality of the coexistence between shepherd and large predators, reducing at the same time the risk of extinction for these animals.
Volunteers provide to the shepherds’ world specific competences and good practices about ecosystem conservation while shepherds contribute with their experience and knowledge of the territory.
The positive exchange of experiences and the identification of proposals of territorial marketing linked to this question lead to a reduction of the conflict between shepherds and predators, which results in damage reduction, protection of the local sheep race “pecora bergamasca” and in an improvement in the relationship between two worlds: the environmentalists and the shepherds and breeders.
The main objective of the project is to prepare the shepherds’ community of the Orobie to face in a resilient way the arrival of large predators in their territory. Thanks to the project the local shepherds’ community will benefit of the transfer of knowledges and practices which will allow to manage the conflict with predators in a way that reduce the risk of economic damages for the shepherds and of poaching for the predators.
Shepherds will use this knew awareness also to positively differentiate their products through a specific plan of territorial marketing, monetizing the reduction of risk achieved through the project.
At the same time, this profit strengthens the local economy safeguarding traditional activities such as sheep breeding, further promotes risk reduction practices even after the end of the project and, consequently, promote the conservation of large predators in the alps.
To improve the coexistence between shepherds and large predators is the best strategy in order to reduce several risks: the one for zootechnical activities deriving form possible predations, and the one of extinction for protected species.
The heart of the project is the encounter between volunteers and shepherds. The first, after being trained by experts, offer concrete help to shepherds in their daily activities in the pastures and create a context of reciprocal trust which results in a collaboration aimed to the reduction of risks.
This allows the local shepherd community to positively differentiate their products thanks to a plan of territorial market and promote a recovery of local economy based on environmental sustainability. In the long term the distrust between alpine world and environmentalists is reduced, creating a context which is favorable to the prosecution of traditional economical activities typical of the local community and to the conservation of large predators.
The Bergamasca sheep
Zootechnics is still a leading sector in the local economy; despite the abandonment process of cultivation practices in the alpine range, in the Orobie alps still survive sustainable ways of using the mountains, like pasture, which has not only productive functions, but also environmental, landscape, touristic, historical and cultural ones. Nevertheless, pastures in the Bergamo region are less and less used for bovine summer pstures, while there is still a strong component of sheep and goats breeding, with farms over the 1000 units.
In the Orobie territory the most widespread race is the Bergamasca sheep (all the farms are constituted almost totally of this type of sheep), one of the most important ovine races, originated in the Orobic valleys. It is a very rustic sheep, capable to adapt to every environmental and management situation (poor pastures, transhumance, farm breeding. The Begramasca sheep is a meat breed, with good reproductive characteristics; furthermore, it is known in Italy and abroad as a cross breed race.
The history of the Bergamasca Sheep is strongly related to its special way of rearing, the transhumance, a traditional system which has maintained through centuries a balanced use of the resources and which, in the Orobic valleys, is characterize by the important particularities linked to the environmental conditions in which it develops (notable inclination, rockiness, water shortage, hard herbs, especially in the Seriana Valley), but also to the social characteristics of the shepherds who practice this activities, whose strong sense of identification with the professional group and traditions allowed the persistence of significative cultural elements.
The Bergamasca sheep transhumant system responds to the needs of a sustainable agriculture from the ecological point of view and can therefore find space in the areas with presence of agricultural activities with prevalent content of territorial maintenance and protection. The interest in alpine pastures and the need of an integrated use between breeding activities, environmental protection and tourism, helps to raise the role of ovine rearing. The valorization and recognition of its ecological role is crucial in order to guarantee the future of the Bergamasca sheep. It is only within the recognition of the ecological sustainability of the transhumance system that it can be assured in the future the use of territories and low-cost forage resources for the practice of this type of breeding.
Valorization of the Bergamasca sheep
In the last years the sheep breeding sector showed a substantial fragility facing the evolution of market, which highlighted on one hand an increase in the production costs and, on the other a decrease of the price of the finish product.
In the last years some critical elements emerged (little profitable wool market, little request of slaughtering, difficulty finding successors in the activity, fractioned offer) which lead to a notable diminution of ovine farms.
The risk of disappearance of local sheep races represents a serious loss for animal and zootechnic biodiversity, and this would affect not only the breeders but all the delicate alpine ecosystem. It is then necessary to recreate the social and economic conditions that allow to continue the rearing of these races and to give value to local products, especially in their territories of origin.
Some shepherds are coordinating in order to create synergies to better face the market, from slaughter to sell, from information about the meet organoleptic qualities and a better use of the wool.
Thanks to the collaboration with Coldiretti Bergamo, Pasturs helps shepherds in the commercial valorization of the Begramasca sheep products.
As it is known, bears and wolves are opportunistic animals and, if they have the chance, can cause damages to livestock. An efficient protection of flocks significantly decrease the attacks from large predators. The most efficient prevention measures, based on Italian and foreign experiences are the following:
- Shepherd’s surveillance: represents one of the prevention measures more efficient and used
- Adoption of guarding dogs: the recommended race is the Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog, appreciated for the attitude to protect the animals. In collaboration con the Italian Circolo del Pastore Maremmano Abruzzese some pups will be delivered to the shepherds who request them; the dogs will be accompanied by a trainer during the project
- Night shelter: constitutes a continue barrier against the penetration of predators, it is extremely efficient
- Electric fences: very efficient, they can be fixed or mobile. The fixed ones are usually employed to protect medium-sized areas of more or less long periods. The mobile fences are instead used in smaller areas, when there is the need to move the fence frequently. The last are not substantially different from the fixed ones, except for the minor weight of their component and some precautions which make faster the installation. Both types of fences, electrified or not, can be used at the same time in order to obtain a protection system particularly efficient: the double fence. It is constituted by an inner fence, not electrified, whose purpose is to contain livestock and an external one, electrified, to prevent the access of predators. This mode reduces in a significant way the risk that the animals, afraid for the attack, could break down the structure and disperse.