(17 Aug 10) On Sunday 15th August at 10.30 p.m., a group of tourists on holiday in Marina di Casalvelino witnessed a particular event: their dubious eyes saw two young otters swimming in an artificial ditch near the mouth of river Alento. But this is no surprise, since we know well that the queen of unpolluted waters has chosen Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park to live and reproduce.
From last March to mid-August, there have been four sightings of otters in the protected areas: these events demonstrate that the efforts of the Park Authority promoting several projects to safeguard this species are giving results. As a matter of fact, the otter has been declared Near Threatened by IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature, of which Cilento Park is a member). In Italy, the species is extinct in the north, and lives in fragmented nuclei in the center and in the south. In order to meet the needs of a greater knowledge of the ecology and status of the otter in Italy, for the conservation of the population and the safeguard of the aquatic habitats, the Park Authority has already carried out a research project whose main results have been:
· Updating of the geographical distribution of the otter population in Central and Southern Italy according to the IUCN standard method;
· Analysis of the environmental and human factors limiting the distribution of the otter;
· Characterization of the diet of the otter in the Mediterranean river systems;
· Study of behavioral ecology (for the first time in Italy, two specimens of wild otters, a male and a female, were captured in the Park, in the river Calore; they were released after equipping them with a radio transmitter, to study their use of space).
The research activity has highlighted that the territory of Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park lies exactly in the heart of the otter distribution range and, probably, the rivers of the Park house the richest population in Italy. Last June, a new project was started: it aims at creating the methodological and cognitive bases for a management of the river habitats, to preserve the otter and the ecological processes of these environments, as well as at finding out the risk factors to reduce and remove the difficulties threatening their survival.
For the President of the Park Authority Amilcare Troiano "the safeguard of the endangered animal and vegetable species, together with the safeguard of biodiversity in all its forms, must become a common feeling and not only a commitment of the institutions.
The Charter of Siracusa and the National Biodiversity Strategy, strongly promoted by the Minister of the Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo, combined with the activities carried out by the national protected area system, represent a real cultural revolution that will transform the safeguard of Biodiversity into an ethical must. Defending Biodiversity means defending man, since Biodiversity represents the guarantee of the continuity of life on our planet. With the several implemented and ongoing activities, we are demonstrating that it is possible to combine the safeguard of biodiversity with the sustainable development of our territory, and that this will also bring economic benefits to the local people.
Not by chance, with the recent establishment of the two marine protected areas of Costa degli Infreschi e della Masseta and S. Maria di Castellabate, our territory has become the largest protected area in Italy, witnessing the attention of the Minister of the Environment and the whole Government for this section of national territory. The meeting with the two otter specimens on 15th August has been the best way to remind us that this is the International Year of Biodiversity".