COVID 19 EMERGENCY - Supporting RE-Wild Liguria ODV 's Activities to Restore Wilderness in Ligurian Apennine, and Monitor and Protect the Feral Horses Population in Aveto Regional Park (Italy)

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Project location: Italy, Liguria
Project start date: June 2020 - Project end date: June 2021
Project number: 2020-018
Beneficiary: R(ural) E(nviroment) - Wild Liguria Odv

The R(ural)E(nviroment)-Wild Liguria was born out of the ten-year experience of the "Un Cavallo per Amico Onlus" and is committed to safeguarding the wild horse population of the Aveto Park Valleys. Its origin dates back to 2009 when the Liguria Region promoted an agreement "for the control, capture, adoption, and eventual controlled release on the territory of the wild horses in Val Aveto, Graveglia, Sturla and Vara ". From then on, RE-Wild Liguria began its commitment to raise awarness on the need to protect the Aveto feral horses, victims of increasing levels of intolerance - even poaching - of the local population. The heart and soul of the association are two women: Paola Marinari, who is in charge of all advocacy and communication activities and Dr. Evelina Isola, naturalist and scientific explainer who takes care of all scientific aspects in collaboration with the University of Genoa, DISTAV.

Based on recognition of the biological and ethological value of the herds, as well as of their fundamental role in habitat equilibrium, RE-Wild Liguria not only runs promotional-tourist and wild-horsewatching activities but also promotes the study of the horse as a "wild" animal, still quite a neglected field of research. In 2014, the two cofounders of RE-Wild Liguria registered the brand "WILD HORSEWATCHING - The Wild Horses of Aveto ®".

The rewilding of wide areas, due to the depopulation of pastures and countryside, is affecting the Apennine and Alpine regions with the return of big predators, but also with animals actually living only in captivity and thought to be extinct in nature. Therefore, many “domestic” animals are now repopulating our mountains and villages. This is the case of Aveto feral horses. This population is the heritage of horses (about ten heads) working in the valleys more than twenty years ago. The release in the wild of these horses created a feral population of Equus caballus living without any direct influence from humans on their behavior, their reproduction and feeding habits.        
Some conflict episodes with local human inhabitants and horses' private property invasion, is an additional reason for studying these herds, in order to protect animals, better mitigate future potential conflicts and find suitable and sustainable solutions.     

While dedicated legislation on feral horses is still missing in Italy, it could be in fact necessary for herds' future management and their protection. Horses are currently included as farm animals in Italian laws establishing measures for breeding farms. However, they are not considered and protected as pets, nor as wild animals. In this scenario, it is necessary to recognize horses' welfare and feral-legal status, their role in habitats equilibrium, and biological value, also in a new scientific research perspective.  

RE-Wild Liguria is working to restore wilderness in Ligurian Apennine, monitor the feral horses population in Aveto Regional Park and further promote its eco-touristic development.

The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant to RE-Wild Liguria to implement monitoring and research activities with the overall goal of: understanding equine population dynamics in order to give indications to the veterinary authorities on any need to contain the population (numerical or spatial); understanding interactions and impact between horses and habitats; helping authorities to understand poaching or catches for clandestine slaughter; and developing new sustainable touristic models in depressed areas in the hinterland, increasing a new sensitivity towards wildlife and rewild one, and mitigate conflict situations through citizen science programs. 
R(ural) E(nviroment) - Wild Liguria Odv
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