Let’s start 2024 with six good news for nature!

There is no better way to start the new year with some good news for nature. Here are 6 conservation successes that WWF has been responsible for in Italy and around the world over the past year that give us hope for protecting our ecosystems and endangered species throughout 2024 and beyond.

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1. Tigers are on the rise

The first victory for endangered species conservation features the tiger. While there were only 3,200 tigers in the wild in 2010, by July 2023 the Global Tiger Forum estimated a total of 5,574 tigers, a 74 percent increase from 13 years ago. The greatest successes are in Bhutan, where the latest survey recorded a 27 percent increase in tiger populations: there are now 131, up 28 from the last survey dated 2015. This study covered 85 percent of the country’s land area, and tigers were detected by 15 percent of the 1,201 phototraps placed in the study area. Bhutan holds the world record for tiger sightings at the highest elevations (above 4,400 meters), and this survey confirms that these iconic felines breed at different altitudes. In addition to estimating the tiger population in the country, the survey identified the main threats to the big cats. Poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflicts still pose threats to the species’ survival. India’s population is also growing: according to the latest census, there are 3,167 tigers living in the country, 200 more than four years ago. This achievement shows that the joint work of the government and numerous partners, including WWF, has resulted in a significant step forward in protecting the species. Tigers, however, are still endangered by poaching, which resells their skin and other body parts, used as ingredients in traditional Eastern medicine, for gold on the underground market. Habitat fragmentation also threatens the tiger’s survival, so efforts to protect them must and will continue thanks in part to WWF’s work and the support of its supporters.

2. Back to nature in Australia, for the future of koalas

Working with more than ten land-based renaturation organizations in northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland, WWF supported 10 plantings involving 263 volunteers to bring vegetation back to areas affected by Australia’s wildfires. Actions included monitoring 72 koala sites and 50 new agreements (“Land for Wildlife”) with private landowners to protect 2,464 hectares of koala habitat. WWF-Australia has also developed 15 partnerships with universities, federal, state and territorial agencies, indigenous and nonprofit organizations to manage wildlife sanctuaries. In addition, WWF is working to restore more than 85,000 hectares of landscape and reduce threats to native wildlife. More than 1,000 phototraps are monitoring the recovery of animal species in these regions with the help of artificial intelligence through the “Eyes on Recovery” project. WWF’s work for the future of koalas does not stop.

3. Elephants, count them to protect them

One of the latest researches in Africa provided an updated picture of elephant distribution, showing that the species travels very long distances in search of water and forage, but also because of difficult coexistence with humans, which exposes elephants to poaching and conflicts with local populations. Seven vehicles flew over the skies making 95 flights in two months and scouting an area of 310,865 square kilometers. The study estimated the presence of 227,900 elephants, distributed 58 percent in Botswana, 29 percent in Zimbabwe and the rest in Namibia, Angola and Zambia. An important achievement that WWF intends to consolidate and improve.

4. New habitat for italic deer and lynx in Italy

Two important projects have featured the italic deer and the lynx. Operation Italic Deer aims to create a second population of this endemic subspecies, present with only 300 individuals in the State Nature Reserve “Bosco della Mesola,” in the province of Ferrara. The project involves the capture and release in the newly identified area (in Calabria) of at least 20 individuals per year, from 2023 to 2025. Thanks to the collaboration between several agencies and institutions, the first 20 italic deer were translocated last March, while the second phase just ended with the release of another 30 individuals in the Serre Regional Nature Park in Calabria. The translocated individuals are intensively monitored using satellite collars, which allow verification of movements, survival and reproduction rates, and possible causes of mortality. The ULyCA2 project (part of a major cross-border conservation project, LIFE Lynx) aims to prevent the extinction of the lynx-the rarest mammal in our country-from our territories. Through genetic reinforcement and conservation measures, the goal is to create a core group of lynx that will allow the Alpine population to be reunited with the Dinaric population. From March to June 2023, five lynx were released in the Tarvisio forest in the Italian Julian Alps and are now being monitored using GPS transmitters. Last October, one of the lynx was killed in a barbaric and cruel manner by a poacher in Austria. This event was a serious blow to the newly rebuilt population, but it will not be the lead of a criminal that will stop the future of the lynx in the Alps and WWF’s work to protect the species.

5. More and more sea turtle nests on Italy’s coasts

In summer 2023, hundreds of volunteers collaborated with the Association’s experts on sea turtle conservation activities, which WWF Italy has been carrying out for more than 20 years. The volunteers’ efforts were instrumental in monitoring beaches for Caretta caretta nests, which, once identified, are secured and monitored until the eggs hatch. The activity took place particularly along the coasts of Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Campania and Tuscany. More than 200 nests were identified and secured, including as many as 142 in Sicily, 50 in Calabria, 15 in the Ionic arc between Puglia and Basilicata, and another 15 in Tuscany. This is an outstanding achievement compared to the 61 nests in 2022. Last summer, 20 awareness-raising initiatives were aimed at tourists and residents, accompanied by the release at sea of sea turtles cared for in the specialized centers that WWF runs together with other entities in Basilicata in Policoro, in Puglia in Molfetta and Torre Guaceto, and in Sicily in Favignana, and which together take in, care for and release about 500 turtles each year.

6. The results of the Ri-Party-Amo project

In less than a year, more than 20 million square meters of beaches, rivers, lakes and seabeds throughout Italy have been cleaned up. This fantastic result was made possible thanks to Ri-Party-Amo, the concrete and ambitious national environmental project born from the collaboration between the Jova Beach Party, Intesa Sanpaolo and WWF Italy.

Through the “Let’s Clean Italy” strand, 340 local and national events were held, days dedicated to volunteers committed to making Italy more beautiful and waste-free. The more than 10,000 volunteers of Ri-Party-Amo were engaged in 179 beach cleanups, 101 river cleanups, 17 lake cleanups and 43 seabed cleanups, thanks to the participation of WWF SUB, for a total of 90,266 kilos of plastic and waste collected.

But the results of Ri-Party-Amo do not stop there. Thanks to the “Let’s Train the Youth” strand, a program of 8 university workshops was developed for students involved in multidisciplinary and practical seminars on environmental issues to engage with experts and volunteers. Numerous educational programs were carried out for all levels of education, involving more than 100,000 students.
WWF is still working toward the conclusion of the “Let’s Rebuild Nature” strand, which involves the development of natural restoration and land protection projects through 8 major nature engineering works in as many areas, restoring habitats and improving usability by local communities.

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