Posted by Vlado Vancura (Conservation Manager, PAN Parks Foundation)
Several arguments are dealing with large predators from time to time. Why are they considered critically important in maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and so are critically important for wilderness? First of all, ecological interactions are initiated by top predators. Secondly, wide-ranging predators usually require large cores of protected landscapes for foraging and seasonal movements. Thirdly, connectivity is required, because core reserves are typically not large enough to maintain sustainable viable predators’ populations.
If we kill off wolves and other wild hunters, we’ll lose not only the prominent species, but also the key to ecological and evolutionary process of top-down regulation. Large carnivores are essential for landscape-level ecological restoration as well, as for the restoration of other highly interactive species and the dynamism of natural processes, such as fire and flood. These are all critically important elements of wilderness.
At present I live and work for three quarters of my time in Abruzzo (Central Italy), but before moving to live here, about two years ago, I had already spent countless days exploring this mountain region, getting to know its wildlife, meeting the local people and enjoying the cultural heritage. This is the place where my family is from, where I first discovered Nature and started with photography. Yet, my vast knowledge of this territory and its nature always suffered from a large blank spot: I had never ventured deep into the wildest and most mystical mountain range of all, the Majella massif – the “Mother” mountain as the locals call it. Surely a special place: the second highest peak in the Apennines… valleys that are even twenty kilometers long with no human living in them… one third of all Italian flora… the largest wolf, chamois and eagle populations in Abruzzo! A mountain worth being designed National Park.