Pantani, Sicily
© C. Cappuzzello

An important wetland in the Mediterranean protected by private land conservation

A large portion of "Pantani of South Eastern Sicily" was purchased by the German Foundation "Stiftung Pro Artenvielfalt" (Pro Biodiversity Foundation - SPA) with the aim of conserving the site for its biodiversity.

This system of coastal lagoons extends along the coast between Pozzallo and Marzamemi (situated between the provinces of Syracuse and Ragusa), forming some of the largest and most representative wetland habitats and ecosystems. Throughout the year, the site offers ideal conditions for resting, feeding and reproduction to an incredible number of animal species: over 250 species of birds, at least 21 species of dragonflies, hundreds of species of insects. This strip of Sicily is in a crucial position along the birds’ migratory route for Africa and represents a very important wintering and nesting area for several very rare species, such as the ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca) and the marbled duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris).

The territory has historically been a subject to indiscriminate hunting and fierce poaching. For years Sicilian protectionists and the German SPA Foundation have been trying to protect this area from negligence and indifference that were jeopardising its enormous potential. Eventually, in just 3 years, the donations of over 29,000 German citizens, motivated by the work of the President of the Foundation, Roland Tischbiere, together with a group of some 30 volunteers from all over Sicily, generated an unprecedented result. The objective of this land acquisition is to stop and remove the negative factors that strongly impacted the area, such as poaching, illegal waste disposal and the disturbance from anthropic activities that are not compatible with the conservation needs of this delicate ecosystem.

In all the activities that have or will require the involvement of specialized firms, companies or workers in general, the Foundation has chosen to entrust the work to local entities, so as to create immediately a positive impact in terms of employment and income for the local community. The goal is to trigger, in the medium term, a broader change to enhance the area: to restore the best natural conditions; to create the conditions for starting a virtuous process that leads to a sustainable local economy linked to naturalistic tourism and agricultural production of excellence.

This story shows that private land conservation initiatives can make a difference in conserving and restoring the most valuable pieces of European nature.

Original article (in Italian) is available here.