Project

Aveto Feral Horses: population dynamics, ethology, ecology

Goal:
INTRODUCTION
The rewilding of wide areas, due to the depopulation of pastures and countryside, is affecting the Apennine and Alpine regions with the return of big predators, but also with animals actually living only in captivity and thought to be extinct in nature. Therefore, many “domestic” animals are now repopulating our mountains and countries. The aim of this proposal is to study the population of wild horses living in Italy, in the Northern Apennine (hinterland of Tigullio Gulf, Liguria). The study area is in the Aveto Natural Regional Park and it is included in a Site of Community Importance (SCI IT1331104).
This population is the heritage of horses (about ten heads) working in the valleys more than twenty years ago. The release in the wild of these horses created a feral population of Equus caballus living without any direct influence from humans on their behavior, their reproduction and feeding habits.
The aim of the work is to study herds’ biology, population dynamics and ethology, and possible effects on predatory behavior of wolfs living in the area, possible consequent relationship with rural life and natural environment. The most interesting habitats related to herds are beech and breading areas with Nardus stricta (Natura 2000 habitat code: 6230: Nardus grasslands formations). In order to establishing how their presence could be conservative for environment, it will be investigate further the maintenance of this habitat related with natural horse grazing.
The approach of the study will be a never addressed approach in Italy: study horses as “wild animals” recognizing their role in habitats equilibriums and their biological value.
Based on monitoring results, a plan of management and possible births containment it will be studied, in accordance with animal welfare.
Experience with similar research projects in other European country will be promoted, in order to create an international network working on this topic.
STATE OF ART
Actually, preliminary field observations are carrying out by fellow.
The porpoise is to develop the following issues:
1. Census and monitoring of the population in Sturla, Penna and Graveglia Valley
2. Natural behaviour of herds: social skills and communication
3. Population dynamics
4. Interactions and impact between horses and habitats, with particular reference to priority habitats under Directive CEE 43/1992
5. Feeding habit: localization, selection, consumption and correlations with natural resource
6. Evaluate the relation prey-predator with wolfs living in the area and eventual influence on others preys (also domestic). This, also in order to observe possible implications with rural life
7. Planning new and innovative monitoring methods for herds
8. Establishment of an international network to link similar research projects in Europe
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND APPROACH
The broad range approach aims at the ethological and ecological study of herds and their conservation on territory, promoting and integrating it with local requirements. A multidisciplinary approach is evocated for ecological studies also in order to have a broad view on consequences of horses’ rewilding on environment. From this point of view, re-wilding will be analyzed as a phenomenon with all possible consequence, and horses in natural environment as wild animal, as never done in Italy.
Ethological study will be carry out by direct field observation: description of the phenomenon and following analysis will be useful for the implementation of an ethogram.
In order to maintain the balance of the local flora and fauna and preserve optimal conditions for local activity of agriculture and allotment, will be constantly carry out a monitoring. It will be observe how natural horse grazing could be conservative (or not) for priority habitat as 6230, 6430, 7239.
Based on monitoring results, a plan of management and possible births containment it will be studied, in accordance with animal welfare (referring to previews experience and studies in Europe and extra-EU countries ).
These objectives will be pursue by:
• Direct field observations
• Seasonal monitoring by photo-recognition and GPS localization
• Comparative study of perimeter areas and free-grazing one to compare respective evolution
• Collaborations with researcher study and monitoring wolfs in the area and other institutions/researcher working with similar project in other countries (EU and extra EU)

INNOVATIVE ASPECTS
Preliminary field observations on herds have noticed an ethological similarity with other wild horses around the world. This population represents, therefore, a unique natural resource in Italy, for the study and observation of horses in nature and for their relationship with environment and habitat conservation.
The approach of the study will be a never addressed approach in Italy: study horses as “wild animals” recognizing their role in habitats equilibriums and their biological value. The fellow will be the first Italian naturalist studying a horse population in Italy as “wild” and not only on veterinary or zootechnique ground.
Actually in Italy, legal status of horses is not “wild animal”, but only as “livestock” (for sport or beef), so this study will be able to give the first academic, scientific and supra-partes indications for a correct legal framework inclusion, not only for this population, but for other similar case in Italy. It will be possible to share information, data and experiences with “Animal Protection Task Force” of Italian Ministry of Health to establish an equine management protocol. We can count on a firm cooperation with it, developed over the last four years during the implement of the project “WILD HORSEWATCHING – I Cavalli Selvaggi dell’Aveto” (ref. section n. 4).
Moreover, will be carry out a study on what could be the consequence of their presence on the maintenance of habitats in a Site of Community Importance. Especially, in breading areas with Nardus stricta it will be evaluate the possibility of natural horse grazing as conservative for environment , as already demonstrate by other experiences in Italy .
Another innovative aspect of proposal is the study of animal behaviour into evolutionary terms in a short-time: after field observation hypothesis on rewilding and speed of adaptation of horses will do.
This research is carry out by our own, without any founds and on a voluntary basis, only with non-systematic field observations.
The project “Wild Horsewatching – I Cavalli Selvaggi dell’Aveto ®”
promote conservation programs and responsible rural tourism related to the wild horses presence in the territory.

Updates
0 new
0
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
7
Reads
0 new
54

Project log

Evelina Isola
added a research item
The rewilding of wide areas, due to the depopulation of pastures and countryside, is affecting the Apennine and Alpine regions with the return of big predators, but also with animals actually living only in captivity and thought to be extinct in nature. Therefore, many “domestic” animals are now repopulating our mountains. This is the case of a population of feral horses living in the Northern Apennine (hinterland of Tigullio Gulf, Liguria, Italy). This population is the heritage of horses (about ten heads) living in the valleys more than twenty years ago. The release in the wild of these horses created a feral population of Equus caballus living without any direct influence with humans on their behaviour, their reproduction and feeding habits. In Italy the return of big predators is often cause of conflict with rural life, but in this case the source of the conflict is represented by large herbivore: rewilding horses. Horses, in fact, during the winter go down from the hills and reach villages and private property. As in many cases, human intolerance culminated in a bold gesture (two horses were shoot in 2009) compromising herds welfare and the equilibrium with rural life. In 2011, was founded by the author the project “WILD HORSEWATCHING – I Cavalli Selvaggi dell’Aveto ®", with the purpose to disseminate this reality. We organize special guided tour, with a naturalist and environmental hiking guide creating, public events and educational activities with schools (also in collaboration with Jane Goodall Institute Italia – Roots & Shoots Project and National Geographic Italia). We also carry out the monitoring on herds and environment. The approach of the study will be a never addressed approach in Italy: study horses as “wild animals” recognizing their role in habitats equilibriums and their biological value. The study area is in the Aveto Natural Regional Park and it is included in a Site of Community Importance (SCI IT1331104). The aim of the work is to study herds’ biology, population dynamics and ethology, and possible effects on predatory behaviour of wolfs living in the area, possible consequent relationship with rural life and natural environment. The most interesting habitats related to herds are beech and breading areas with Nardus stricta (Natura 2000 habitat code: 6230: Nardus grasslands formations). In order to establishing how their presence could be conservative for environment, it will be investigated further the maintenance of this habitat related with natural horse grazing. Experience with similar research projects in other European country will be promoted, in order to create an international network working on this topic.
Evelina Isola
added a project goal
INTRODUCTION
The rewilding of wide areas, due to the depopulation of pastures and countryside, is affecting the Apennine and Alpine regions with the return of big predators, but also with animals actually living only in captivity and thought to be extinct in nature. Therefore, many “domestic” animals are now repopulating our mountains and countries. The aim of this proposal is to study the population of wild horses living in Italy, in the Northern Apennine (hinterland of Tigullio Gulf, Liguria). The study area is in the Aveto Natural Regional Park and it is included in a Site of Community Importance (SCI IT1331104).
This population is the heritage of horses (about ten heads) working in the valleys more than twenty years ago. The release in the wild of these horses created a feral population of Equus caballus living without any direct influence from humans on their behavior, their reproduction and feeding habits.
The aim of the work is to study herds’ biology, population dynamics and ethology, and possible effects on predatory behavior of wolfs living in the area, possible consequent relationship with rural life and natural environment. The most interesting habitats related to herds are beech and breading areas with Nardus stricta (Natura 2000 habitat code: 6230: Nardus grasslands formations). In order to establishing how their presence could be conservative for environment, it will be investigate further the maintenance of this habitat related with natural horse grazing.
The approach of the study will be a never addressed approach in Italy: study horses as “wild animals” recognizing their role in habitats equilibriums and their biological value.
Based on monitoring results, a plan of management and possible births containment it will be studied, in accordance with animal welfare.
Experience with similar research projects in other European country will be promoted, in order to create an international network working on this topic.
STATE OF ART
Actually, preliminary field observations are carrying out by fellow.
The porpoise is to develop the following issues:
1. Census and monitoring of the population in Sturla, Penna and Graveglia Valley
2. Natural behaviour of herds: social skills and communication
3. Population dynamics
4. Interactions and impact between horses and habitats, with particular reference to priority habitats under Directive CEE 43/1992
5. Feeding habit: localization, selection, consumption and correlations with natural resource
6. Evaluate the relation prey-predator with wolfs living in the area and eventual influence on others preys (also domestic). This, also in order to observe possible implications with rural life
7. Planning new and innovative monitoring methods for herds
8. Establishment of an international network to link similar research projects in Europe
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND APPROACH
The broad range approach aims at the ethological and ecological study of herds and their conservation on territory, promoting and integrating it with local requirements. A multidisciplinary approach is evocated for ecological studies also in order to have a broad view on consequences of horses’ rewilding on environment. From this point of view, re-wilding will be analyzed as a phenomenon with all possible consequence, and horses in natural environment as wild animal, as never done in Italy.
Ethological study will be carry out by direct field observation: description of the phenomenon and following analysis will be useful for the implementation of an ethogram.
In order to maintain the balance of the local flora and fauna and preserve optimal conditions for local activity of agriculture and allotment, will be constantly carry out a monitoring. It will be observe how natural horse grazing could be conservative (or not) for priority habitat as 6230, 6430, 7239.
Based on monitoring results, a plan of management and possible births containment it will be studied, in accordance with animal welfare (referring to previews experience and studies in Europe and extra-EU countries ).
These objectives will be pursue by:
• Direct field observations
• Seasonal monitoring by photo-recognition and GPS localization
• Comparative study of perimeter areas and free-grazing one to compare respective evolution
• Collaborations with researcher study and monitoring wolfs in the area and other institutions/researcher working with similar project in other countries (EU and extra EU)
INNOVATIVE ASPECTS
Preliminary field observations on herds have noticed an ethological similarity with other wild horses around the world. This population represents, therefore, a unique natural resource in Italy, for the study and observation of horses in nature and for their relationship with environment and habitat conservation.
The approach of the study will be a never addressed approach in Italy: study horses as “wild animals” recognizing their role in habitats equilibriums and their biological value. The fellow will be the first Italian naturalist studying a horse population in Italy as “wild” and not only on veterinary or zootechnique ground.
Actually in Italy, legal status of horses is not “wild animal”, but only as “livestock” (for sport or beef), so this study will be able to give the first academic, scientific and supra-partes indications for a correct legal framework inclusion, not only for this population, but for other similar case in Italy. It will be possible to share information, data and experiences with “Animal Protection Task Force” of Italian Ministry of Health to establish an equine management protocol. We can count on a firm cooperation with it, developed over the last four years during the implement of the project “WILD HORSEWATCHING – I Cavalli Selvaggi dell’Aveto” (ref. section n. 4).
Moreover, will be carry out a study on what could be the consequence of their presence on the maintenance of habitats in a Site of Community Importance. Especially, in breading areas with Nardus stricta it will be evaluate the possibility of natural horse grazing as conservative for environment , as already demonstrate by other experiences in Italy .
Another innovative aspect of proposal is the study of animal behaviour into evolutionary terms in a short-time: after field observation hypothesis on rewilding and speed of adaptation of horses will do.
This research is carry out by our own, without any founds and on a voluntary basis, only with non-systematic field observations.
The project “Wild Horsewatching – I Cavalli Selvaggi dell’Aveto ®”
promote conservation programs and responsible rural tourism related to the wild horses presence in the territory.