Stop Italian hunters’ abuse of live birds as decoys

This video says about itself:

Birds of Sardinia, Italy

Collection of 16 birds you can see at Sardina (Sardegna) during the winter.

[Names in English, Latin and Dutch]

1. Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix) / Bonte Kraai
2. Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) / Geelpootmeeuw
3. Rock Dove (Columba livia) / Rotsduif
4. Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) / Zwarte Spreeuw
5. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
6. Eurasian Curlew, (Numenius arquata) / Wulp
7. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) / Zilverplevier
8. Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) / Bontbekplevier
9. Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra) / Grauwe Gors
10. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) / Putter
11. Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) / Cirlgors
12. Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) / Zwartkop
13. Linnet male and female (Carduelis cannabina) / Kneu
14. Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) / Tjiftjaf
15. Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) / Provençaalse Grasmus
16. Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara) / Barbarijse Patrijs

From BirdLife:

Italy put in hot spot as Commission calls to end live bird decoy use in hunting

By Rebecca Langer, Fri, 11/04/2014 – 14:34

Hunting practices in Italy have been put under fire recently by the European Commission due to the common hunting method involving the capture of wild birds to use as live decoys. Live decoys are illegal under EU law based on a number of reasons including the non-selectivity of trapping methods used, lack of controls and the lack of information on the number of birds caught. Due to this violation of the Birds and Habitats directive, BirdLife Partner in Italy, LIPU, is calling on the Italian government to urgently remedy the situation.

Italy has defended its inaction by claiming that there are no alternatives to the practice so the decoys are included in the exemptions to the Directive. The European Commission disputes this claim on the grounds that birds can be successfully hunted without the use of live decoys and captive bred birds can be used instead of wild caught birds.

The European Commission has made it clear that there is no future for this practice so Italy has the opportunity to minimise the adverse effects of a judgment from the European Court of Justice by providing an absolute prohibition of the use of birds as decoys. LIPU has been campaigning and gathering signatures to present to decision-makers in hopes that the government will avoid the embarrassment of a judgment and bring Italy in line with EU legislation and widely recognised good practice.

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Berlusconi-mafia contact man arrested in Lebanon

This video from Italy says about itself:

Berlusconi calls “hero” the Mafia member Vittorio Mangano [English subtitles]

27 March 2009

Once upon a time, Berlusconi hired a man to work as broom at his villa: his name was Vittorio Mangano and, incidentally, he was also a Mafia member,who will be sentenced to imprisonment for murder and similar nice stuff.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Silvio Berlusconi associate to appear in Beirut court over Lebanon arrest

Marcello Dell’Utri, suspected of escaping justice, awaits ruling over appeal against sentence for colluding with Sicilian mafia

John Hooper in Rome

Sunday 13 April 2014 16.02 BST

Silvio Berlusconi‘s longstanding associate with whom he co-founded Italy‘s main rightwing party is expected to appear before a magistrate in Beirut on Monday at a hearing for a decision on the legality of his arrest.

Marcello Dell’Utri, who allegedly acted as a mediator between the Cosa Nostra and Berlusconiwas detained at a five-star hotel in the Lebanese capital at the end of last week. This has come before a final ruling by the Italian supreme court, due on Tuesday, on his appeal against a seven-year sentence for colluding with the Sicilian mafia. The 72-year-old senator’s lawyer said it was illogical to think his client was seeking to escape justice, since he had used his own name and credit card to book into the hotel.

Berlusconi was quoted on Sunday as having said it was he who had sent Dell’Utri to Lebanon. The daily La Repubblica said the former prime minister told a delegation from his Forza Italia (“Come on Italy”) party that he was responding to a request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian president had asked him to do what he could to help the leader of Lebanon’s Kataeb party, Amine Gemayel, to regain the presidency.

The warrant for Dell’Utri’s arrest cited a bugged discussion between the senator’s brother and a friend which the judges said showed there was a “serious and concrete danger” of Dell’Utri’s trying to establish himself abroad before the supreme court ruling. Some Italian newspapers on Sunday published extracts from the transcripts of the recordings.

Speaking on 8 November 2013, Alberto Dell’Utri, the senator’s twin, said: “Ten days ago, Marcello dined in Rome with … an important politician from the Lebanon who has been president and is putting himself up in the forthcoming elections and on 14 November he is planning to go to Beirut to see.”

However, the two men, whose conversation was taped as part of a separate investigation, also discussed the possibility of the senator might in future shuttle between Lebanon and west Africa on a diplomatic passport issued by the authorities in Guinea-Bissau as part of a scheme to exploit the country’s mineral riches. The transcripts indicated that Alberto Dell’Utri was proposing his brother should make a big donation to the country through an NGO set up by Berlusconi for building hospitals in Africa. Alberto Dell’Utri’s friend suggested a figure of €5m (£4.1m) might be appropriate.

“All that Marcello needs to do is go to Silvio and tell him: ‘Silvio, I’m going to Guinea-Bissau’: explain everything to him … ‘I’m founding a soccer school for the kids,’” Alberto Dell’Utri commented.

Marcello Dell’Utri – then the head of the advertising arm of Berlusconi’s vast business empire – created Forza Italia! from scratch in 1993, appointing his own executives to be its earliest officials. His conviction for collaboration with Cosa Nostra refers only to a period ending the previous year.

Lawyers expressed conflicting opinions on the difficulties of extraditing Dell’Utri from Lebanon if the supreme court upholds his conviction on Tuesday.

Super-rich septuagenarian Silvio Berlusconi will have to spend four hours a week serving the elderly to repay Italian society for tax fraud: here.

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Bald ibises flying in V-formation, new research

This video from Austria says about itself:

Migration Project Waldrappteam: Flight Training

24 Feb 2010

In the course of the animal conservation project Waldrappteam ( we handraise juvenile bald ibises and train them to follow their foster parents sitting in microlights. The so trained birds can be teached the way to a appropriate wintering area. Flight training is sometimes hard work … but it works.

From Wildlife Extra:

Technology reveals how and why some bird flocks fly in a V-formation

January 2014: Researchers have attached custom-built GPS and accelerometer loggers to birds on migration and have gained ground-breaking insights into the mysteries of bird flight formation.

The light-weight, synchronised GPS and inertial measurement devices, recorded to within 30cm accuracy where a northern bald ibis was within the flock, its speed, and when and how hard it flapped its wings. The precision of the measurements enabled the aerodynamic interactions of the birds to be studied at a greater level and complexity than ever before.

The research, led by the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, proves for the first time that birds precisely time when they flap their wings and position themselves in aerodynamically optimal positions to maximise the capture of upwash, or ‘good air’, throughout the entire flap cycle.

Dr Steve Portugal, Lead Researcher at the Royal Veterinary College, said: “The distinctive V-formation of bird flocks has long intrigued researchers and continues to attract both scientific and popular attention, however a definitive account of the aerodynamic implications of these formations has remained elusive until now.

“The intricate mechanisms involved in V-formation flight indicate remarkable awareness and ability of birds to respond to the wingpath of nearby flock-mates. Birds in V-formation seem to have developed complex phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings.”

Professor David Delpy, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that provided the funding for the project said: “This is a fascinating piece of research, providing a scientific answer to a question that I suspect most people have asked themselves – why do birds fly in formation? The results will prove useful in a variety of fields for example aerodynamics and manufacturing.”

Scientists captured the data for the study as the ibis flew alongside a micro-light on their migration route from their summer birthplace in Austria to their wintering grounds in Tuscany, Italy.

Dr Portugal and his team worked with the Waldrappteam, a conservation organisation based in Austria, which is re-introducing northern bald ibises into Europe, where they have been extinct for 300 years.

The 14 juvenile birds used in the study were hand-reared at Vienna Zoo by human foster parents from the Waldrappteam. The birds were then trained to follow a micro-light ‘mother-ship’ to teach them their historic migration routes to wintering grounds in Italy, knowledge they would normally learn from adult birds.

The birds are currently in Tuscany and the team hopes they will remember and make their way to what should be their breeding grounds in Salzburg later this year, without the help of the micro-light this time!

See also here.

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Italian medical soldier jailed for saving cat’s life?

Doctor Barbara Balanzoni

Nearly a century ago, in World War I, British military top brass ordered a cat to be shot for treason.

Now, in 2013, an Italian woman doctor may have to spend a year or more in a military jail for saving a cat’s life.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Italian army reservist to be prosecuted for saving cat’s life in Kosovo

Barbara Balanzoni, who saved dying cat while serving as a medical officer at a Nato base, is charged with insubordination

John Hooper in Rome

Sunday 22 December 2013 15.35 GMT

A question is to be raised in the Italian parliament over the case of an army officer who was sent for trial at a military court last week for saving the life of a dying cat.

Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni, a reservist who has since returned to her civilian job as an anaesthetist in Tuscany, is charged with gross insubordination. She committed the alleged offence while serving as medical officer at a Nato base in Kosovo.

It is claimed that, by attending to the cat, Lt Balanzoni disregarded an order issued by her commanding officer in May 2012 forbidding troops at the base from “bringing in or having brought in wild, stray or unaccompanied animals”. She faces a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary.

Lt Balanzoni told the Guardian she intervened after receiving a call to the infirmary from military personnel, alarmed by the noises the cat was making. She said the cat – later named “Agata” – normally lived on the roof of a hut.

“There are lots of cats on the base,” she said. “In theory, they are strays, but in practice they belong there.”

Lt Balanzoni said the veterinary officer was in Italy when she received the call. “Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene.”

She said she found that the cat had been unable to deliver the last of her kittens, which was stillborn, and was certain to die. “If the cat had died, the entire area would have had to be disinfected. What is more, the surviving kittens could not have been fed. So they too would have died and created an even greater public health problem.”

Lt Balanzoni’s trial is due to open in Rome on 7 February. Her case has been taken up by Italy’s oldest animal defence association, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali and a question to the defence minister is due to be tabled in the Senate, the upper house of the Italian legislature, when parliament reassembles after the Christmas break.

See also here.