Restoring to nature viable populations of Perdix p. italica, this is the main objective of our project.
Not a small goal, given that it is a question of reintroducing a subspecies which, in the last 60 years, has survived exclusively in breeding. This means that for generations these animals have not had to find food, defend themselves from predators or build their own nests: in short, they have lost their wildness, that is the ability to support and sustain themselves independently.
The value of wildness in animals destined for restocking is known: the less their life depends on man, the more chances they will have to settle in and survive in nature. Therefore, the biggest challenge that our project presents us with is precisely this: how to make partridges resurface their own wild nature?
Having reached the second season of reintroductions, we can take stock of the actions that have been successful – which represent the majority – but above all we must focus on those actions that can be improved to have results more in line with expectations.
Predation, for example, is certainly the factor that today most affects the survival of reintroduced individuals, totally unaccustomed to defending themselves. For this reason, during the next season the anti-predatory training sessions will be greatly intensified, both with falconers and with mobile shapes. Another critical factor encountered is the presence of parasites. Some individuals, in fact, show coccidiosis – normally inherent in avifauna – which remains latent and in a subclinical state until released: once at Mezzano, however, it easily passes into a clinical state. The stress of transport, the change of climate and general conditions probably favors the onset of the infection. The veterinary staff of ISPRA is moving, together with the staff of Bieri, for the correct management of the problem.
Also at the Mezzano, some individuals were found lifeless on an empty stomach: most likely the passage of the partridges from the Bieri diet to that of the Mezzano must be coordinated in a different way.
Furthermore, some reflections have emerged regarding the monitoring methodologies used so far, which are not entirely exhaustive and which, in all probability, lead us to an underestimation of the numbers of individuals present at the Mezzano.
In fact, with the help of pointing dogs, the presence of pheasants was not adequately detected, a species which is known to be present in large numbers in the area. Telemetry on a small number of specimens also proved to be less reliable than hoped for in extrapolating the survival of the released individuals.
During 2023 we will expand and strengthen the monitoring methods through direct sighting campaigns – also involving Universities, Associations and volunteers – using UAV technology, i.e. drones and enhancing the use of camera traps.
Therefore, there is still a need for time and all our efforts to find effective data on the survival and reproductive success of animals released into the wild.