DanizaABC invited Abruzzese Rita Salvatore, an environmental socialogist, to explain to our readers the situation in Northern Italy with Daniza the bear that has been in the media for the past weeks.  Clearly, it is an issue that touches Abruzzo as well.  Farmers, trekkers, and wildlife sharing the resources of the region is ideal, however, the recently confirmed murder of a Marsican bear found 12th September 2014 in Pettorano Gizio has opened the debate once again.  What do we value?   We like to think of ourselves as modern people who can solve problems in a communal way.  Well, what does it take to do that?  We think Ms. Salvatore offers some history and some ideas for moving forward.

The Italian “adventure” of Daniza began in 2000 when, thanks to the project “LIFE Ursus” she was moved from Slovenia and taken to the northern Italian mountain area of the Brenta Dolomites and Adamello Mountains.  The project was sponsored by the Adamello-Brenta National Park and funded by the European Commission. At that time Daniza was 5 years old and the oldest bear among 10 others.

During the years they lived in this region, these bears have done what they were supposed to do: they have reproduced their species and repopulated the area which had witnessed the complete extinction of bears. Since 2002  Daniza alone had given birth to 18 cubs!   According to some official sources, the bears exist in numbers of between 40-70. The cohabitation with these big mammals has not always been easy, of course, but the story of Daniza and her death is now putting into question the whole issue about conservation as well as some environmental policies.

The case of Daniza met the attention from media and social networks in August, when she attacked a man who was picking mushrooms near the den where she was raising her two young bears. Daniza reacted in a normal, “natural” defensive way. Even though the man was not seriously injured, the media classified Daniza as a “problem bear”. This classification referred to a resolution that the Autonomous Province of Trento (APT) had introduced just a month before. It had become part of the Interregional Action Plan for the management of the Brown Bear in the central-eastern Alps and, following a consultation with the Ministry of Environment, it had established that, if considered dangerous for humans, a bear could be  captured and killed even if it is a protected and “at risk” extinct species. Furthermore, due to the new decision, the APT started to chase the bear in order to capture her. Many animalist and environmental associations as well as the National Corps of Forest Rangers did not agree with this procedure and voiced their concerns, especially with regard to the future of the two cubs who were at risk of losing their mother. They also underscored that such an act would be a serious form of animal mistreatment. Unfortunately, it was not enough to stop the APT.

In the meantime, on the web a pro-Daniza social movement developed. The hashtag #iostocondaniza (I’m with Daniza) appeared on all the most popular social networks and an open community of over 13.000 followers grew on Face Book, updating the situation hour by hour. For some undisclosed reason, the local authorities decided to use a tranquilizer gun instead of a less dangerous tube trap to capture her. The dose for Daniza was a lethal one. She died on the 10th September leaving her cubs alone in the wilderness. If she had not died, she would have looked after them for two more years teaching them how to gather food, how to make a den, how to manage the risks in nature. Now their future survival is compromised.

At the moment there are no ongoing investigations and only an autopsy will make clear the causes of her death and the contingent responsibilities.  Italian public opinion has become more and more indignant about the outcome of this and many initiatives have taken root.   Online petitions, public sit-ins, and even the organization of a festival in her name is being organized by the European Wilderness Society. The Daniza Bear Festival will take place on 10th September 2015 to both commemorate her death and to hear from experts in the bear reintroduction management field.

It can be said that to a certain extent the story of Daniza has also become a political case.  A presidium of the most important environmental and animal associations applied publically for the resignation of those from the Ministry of Environment who authorized her capture without giving the proper attention to the thousands of citizens’ worries and without evaluating different scientific opinions.

Whatever the future outcome of the case, it has highlighted the need to rethink the whole issue about environmental conservation, with special concern to the co-existence between wildlife and humans. We all should gain an important lesson from what happened and act toward more inclusive policies, which consider the social impact of wild animal reintroduction under a new light.  New strategies should be promoted aiming at a wider dissemination of correct information among farmers, residents, citizens and – last but not least – tourists.  In other words, a multi-stakeholders’ governance ought to exist, where the institutions reason with social actors about what to do, both on a local and a national level.  Wildlife has its own habits and needs its own space. So do humans. That is why the whole issue about reintroduction can no longer occur without a systematic public debate and discussion about what is going right and what is going wrong as we co-habitat with wild life.  If eco-tourism has to be promoted, if mountains have to be repopulated with human activities, this cannot be realized without proper attention to education and information.

Daniza’s death must have meaning.


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