Wolves, boars and bears spotted as Italian lockdown continues

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Sun, 2020-04-19 03:04

ROME: As Italians enter the seventh week of Europe’s longest coronavirus-induced lockdown, they are becoming accustomed to the sight of wild animals in spaces that humans have temporarily abandoned.
With people locked at home in order to minimize the spread, streets, squares and parks have been tentatively repopulated. Dogs, cats and pigeons, of course, have taken the opportunity to roam freely, but also roe deer, wild boar and even wolves.
Photos of these uncommon creatures in highly urbanized areas like Rome, Milan and Turin are all over the internet, creating an online sensation.
“It is like the wildlife has reclaimed spaces stolen, while a mocking virus forces us to hide in our homes. Now we are inside and they are outside, like in an inverted role-player game,” Prof. Saverio Sevirio, an ethologist who has been studying this phenomenon, told Arab News.
Local media in Tuscany reported a wolf had been spotted slinking out of a park in Sesto Fiorentino, an industrial center near Florence. Goslings were seen waddling behind their mothers along deserted thoroughfares in Treviso, not far from Venice. Fallow deer invaded a golf course in Sardinia, and even enjoyed a dip in the clubhouse’s luxurious swimming pool.
In Cagliari, bottlenose dolphins have long been known to wait at the mouth of the port to play in the wake of departing vessels. But none are leaving, as the port has been closed by the authorities, so the dolphins have been filmed swimming up and down, under quays, and peering at the humans above. A similar phenomenon has been observed at Trieste in the North East of Italy. “A non-scientist might speculate that the dolphins are thinking: ‘Why aren’t you moving around in your boats any longer?’” said Sevirio.
Ethologists observing the unusual phenomenon sparked by the lockdown have cautioned against assuming that nature is reclaiming its own permanently. Some mammals, like foxes, may have been in the cities already, prowling undetected at night. A golden eagle spotted gliding above a main road in Milan posed a different question: Was it there because of the lockdown, or did people just notice it because of the lockdown?
The same question was raised in Rome when a Carabinieri patrol spotted six huge wild boar eating grass on the green in front of the Basilica di San Giovanni, one mile from the Colosseum. The green — a big area which usually hosts concerts and political rallies of up to half million people —lies at the center of the Italian capital.
“Normally you would hardly see a cat here, as they are afraid of cars speeding and people congregating. Now, as there is nobody around, we have boars here. Hopefully they will not be dangerous,” said Giovanni, a pensioner who lives locally while out walking his dog.
“Since the city parks have been closed for so long, we don’t know what we will find when the lockdown ends,” a police officer in Rome told Arab News. Parks like Villa Borghese and Villa Ada spread for hundreds of hectares, and include lakes and wetlands, so the city’s authorities fear that some wild animals may have already taken over. “It will be hard to kick them out — we have been told that wolves have been spotted. That’s not good,” the policeman added.
Indeed, though interesting to watch, not all wild animal reappearances have been welcomed. Residents in Alpine areas of the province of Trentino-Alto Adige have been advised not only to stay at home, but to refrain from leaving out rubbish at night that might attract Italy’s most wanted animal, a notorious brown bear known to scientists as M49 and to the public as “Papillon” (because of his escape last year over three electrified fences).
The bear is nicknamed after Henri Charrière, the only man to escape from the French penal colony on Devil’s Island, and like him, the animal has a substantial criminal record, having broken into people’s cottages and attacked cattle. The mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, urged AMA, the Italian garbage collection agency, to intensify rubbish collection efforts on the back of the report in order to deter potentially dangerous wild animals from entering residential areas in search of food.

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