Italy’s Rare Bear in Losing Battle Against Extinction

In the forests of Italy’s Abruzzo National Park live one of the rarest creatures on Earth: the Marsican brown bear. For the last several decades the species has been on the brink of extinction — with current estimates putting their population at less than 50 individuals, down from over 100 in the early 1980s. Recently, a program funded by the EU set out to help preserve the threatened animals, though a sad event today suggests that it may not be enough.

Sadly, threats facing the marsican bears are far more numerous than the bears themselves — from poison intended for other animal and illegal hunting to human development and vehicle strikes. Most, if not all, remaining individuals — members of a subspecies of European brown bear — are thought to be living under protection in Abruzzo National Park, but that fact alone hasn’t managed to curb their decline.

In fact, it may already be too late to save the bears. Park administrator Giuseppe Rossi told The Christian Science Monitor that she believes the animal’s numbers are “below the threshold of survival.”

And just today, word is that a marsican bear was found dead along the roadside — presumably having been struck by a car.

For as bleak as the bears’ outlook may be, The Monitor reports that efforts are underway to help preserve the less than fifty remaining individuals:

A new conservation initiative, the €5 million ($7.3 million) Life Arctos project, partly funded by the European Union, is due to run until 2014. Efforts will include putting electric fences around beehives and vegetable gardens to deter the beasts from foraging for food near human populations. Volunteers will plant fruit-bearing trees to which the bears are especially partial, encouraging them to search for food up in the hills rather than around settlements.

Marsican brown bears are the largest land-dwelling species native to Italy. But despite their imposing stature, after decades of struggling for their very survival against extinction, no preservation measures may be enough to keep them from it.

This post originally appeared on Treehugger.

Related Stories:

Bear Baying: Chaining Animals for Sport

Polar Bear Swims for 9 Days Before Finding Ice

Knut, Germany’s Famous Polar Bear, Dies in Front of 600 Visitors (Video)


Photo from Andy Mc via flickr
written by Stephen Messenger, a Treehugger blogger

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra2 years ago

Thank you Lindsay, for Sharing this!

Viviana Rendell
Viviana Garcia4 years ago

Authorities should fight illegal hunting in these protected areas.

Janine H.
Janine H.4 years ago

This is a very sad story. Other animals has to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy averything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago

Too bad

Joy Dantine
Joy Dantine4 years ago


Kathleen D.
Kathleen D.4 years ago

I disagree with "humans aren't as selfish". I do agree that we are overpopulated and that stems from selfishness. We humans have asserted our own needs as the most important, far above an animal's requirements for survival. We've trapped, killed, poisoned and encroached on the habitat of wildlife so that now, there is nowhere for them to go, little to eat and diminishing chances for resurgence of those in greatest peril of extinction. What a tragedy because those of us who try to make a difference, are outnumbered by those who will do nothing but continue to put their own 'wants' (not needs) before the creatures of this earth. I continue to say we don't own mother earth, we simply share it.

Chris P.
Chris P.4 years ago

As an animal lover bears will look after them selves

Julia Tawyea'
Julia Tawyea'4 years ago

Something needs to be done now!!!

Cindy B.
Cindy Black4 years ago

I appreciate your comment, Tekla, but I believe that humans aren't as "selfish" as they are simply "too numerous." All humans on this earth want the same stuff, really: a car, someplace nice to live, the usual consumer goods, the basic "toys" and electronics... And even if they DON'T want those things, there are other people whose only source of survival is designing and developing things to foist on other people whether they need them or not! This is because there's not enough planet left for people to live "natural" lives -- lives in symbiosis with the earth -- like people used to!

So just like bugs trapped inside a jar of rice, we are eating ourselves out of a planet; we're using everything up! Everything requires energy and raw materials, and creates waste... Cities expand, and suburbs become new towns; and every single city and town I've ever heard of has crowed about its "economic development" or worried why it didn't have it -- as if "development" and "expansion" was the highest badge of honor!

Oh, no doubt there are greedy people! But just common, ordinary human nature is plenty enough to do the animals in. Like this beautiful bear, who looks very sad. With darn good reason.

rene davis
rene davis4 years ago