Black Stork Reintroduction
To reintroduce captive-bred black storks into their former range in Italy
The Black Stork, Ciconia nigra, has a wide breeding area stretching from Belgium in the west to the most eastern part of Russian in the Amur River basin. In Africa, there is a separate breeding population in the northern part of South Africa and in Zimbabwe. The largest populations are found in Latvia (900-1'100 pairs), Poland (950-1'100 pairs), White Russia (1'200-1'470 pairs) and Russia (1'000-5'000 pairs). In 1996-1997, the western population was estimated at 388 to 448 pairs, the eastern at 7'409 to 14'166 pairs.
While not considered threatened at the global level, the black stork is rated "rare" by the BirdLife International's status assessment "Birds of the European Union".
Since the mid-19th century, the black stork has disappeared from vast parts of its European range due to hunting and habitat loss caused by intensified agriculture and forestry. The species became extinct as a breeding bird in Belgium and Bavaria in the late 19th century, and disappeared from a number of German Counties during the first quarter of the 20th century (Hessen 1909, North-Rhine-Westphalia 1910, Schleswig-Holstein 1916, and Baden-Württemberg 1925). It became also extinct in Denmark in 1951 and in Sweden in 1953. Fortunately, populations of Eastern and Central-Eastern Europe were thriving and, thanks to overspill from these areas, Black storks reappeared some thirty years ago in the forests of Belgium, Luxemburg and northern France. In 2000 populations were estimated to 7 breeding pairs in Luxemburg, 30 in the Belgian Ardennes and 30 in the Cote d'Or Department of Burgundy. Their reappearance in the Ardennes has been attributed to the reafforestation and cleaning of streams and rivers. Also in Austria and Germany the populations has recovered since the 1970s. Records of black storks migrating through Switzerland are clearly on the increase, and since some years Mulhouse Zoo (France) has been used as a resting spot for individual black storks. In South-Western Europe the black stork continues to decline. A new threat to the survival of the species are windfarms affecting the migration routes. Such windfarms are being planned in the Ebro Delta of Spain and along the northen Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.
In Italy, only a few isolated breeding pairs survived. In the Ticino River Valley the species became locally extinct. Italy used to be notorious for the hunting passion of its citizens, which threatened many native species and was of great concern for migratory species. However, since the 1970s the situation has gradually improved, and today a good network of protected areas is in place. The Parco Lombardo del Ticino was established in 1974 as the first regional park of Italy. The park includes the territory of 47 municipalities in three provinces and consists of a 69'161 ha regional park and a 22'249 ha nature park. No less than 361 vertebrate species have been recorded within the park's boundaries, and a few previously extinct species were reintroduced.
Through the experimental release of black storks at Parco Ticino, the following questions should be answered:
- In which area will the released black storks settle?
- Will these zoo-bred birds follow the natural migration route through Parco Ticino?
If the released animals remain in the area and follow the migration, a further aim will be to restock the wild population in Northern Italy.
In summer 2005 the first two young black storks provided by Goldau Landscape and Animal Park were released in Parco Ticino after acclimatisation in the releasing aviary at Oriano (close to the WAZA institution member Parco Faunistico "La Torbiera" where the species is on exhibit). The birds are monitored by satellite telemetry (ARGOS system). In the following years, depending on the results, the aim is to release every year 2-3 birds up to a total of 9 animals. To make the local inhabitants aware of this threatened species a visitors centre was built near the releasing site.
WAZA Conservation Project 05018 is implemented by the Parco Lombardo del Ticino and supported by the Goldau Landscape and Animal Park, Centro Monticello, CARIPLO (Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde - Fondazione), Associazione "Il Colibri" and WWF Italia.
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