Nimble ibexes with decorative backswept horns graze fearlessly in High mountain meadows of Gran Paradiso National Park, set aside to save them by King Vittorio Emanuele II in 1856. Once endangered by demand for body parts supposed to have therapeutic properties as well as for trophy horns, with protection they have thrived.

With all its dramatic beauty, Italy seems as little concerned with wildlife and the environment as any country on earth. Pollution from industrial and urban waste, carbon monoxide and lead emissions, and rubbish dumping everywhere leave the general populace untroubled. Hunters have decimated wild populations, almost wiping out magnificent golden eagles. Colorful small birds are more readily seen in the relative safety of city parks than in their countryside habitats.

Italy is part of the Central Mediterranean Corridor for birds of prey flying between European nest sites and African wintering areas. In spring some 27,500 raptors of 16 species move through—some 11,400 honey buzzards alone crossing over the Straits of Messina. But despite local groups’ energetic protests, thousands are shot there and at other crossings every year.

Still, interest is growing in environmental organizations and in setting aside wildlife parks and reserves, especially in remote andmountainous areas where habitat remains. A Ministry for the Environment, created in 1986, has been activated, partly as a result of European Union directives. A Lista Rossa (Red List) by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reported 60 percent of Italian vertebrates are threatened—but many are legally protected now, and some, like brown bear and lynx, are slowly recovering after reintroduction in remote places where they had disappeared.

There are now 17 national parks and reserves covering almost 4,700 square miles (12,150 km2), just over 4 percent of the country—not always well maintained and protected, but designated— with the prospect of more since passage of a 1991 law permitting creation of 14 new ones.



Abruzzo National Park

Circeo National Park

Stelvio National Park

Calabria National Park

More about the Reserves in italy

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