“Mission 500, to get a 1969 Fiat 500 from Tuscany to Cheshire whilst saving the lives of 500 migratory birds”
So how did we do? Well we got the Fiat 500 all the way, though I’m yet to learn what state she is in… The highs and lows of Oom’s journey will come in another blog. But Oom related problems along the way obviously affected other aspects of the mission.
The birds? Much of the time it felt more like lows than highs, but who ever said that working with animals was easy huh? Right, no one. The weather has been incredibly pleasant. This does mean that many birds will be migrating later on. Just a few days ago, I saw Swallows in France. Swallows in October! Many hunters/poachers are good at what they do. They’re not going to waste time and effort putting traps out until there is an abundance of birds arriving on migration.
Oom was not ready/with us for a trip to Lucca, where we had hoped to show her off in her bunting, driving her around the wall and attracting lots of attention to our project. Fail.
Thanks to the wonderful Catia, of Oasi Smeraldino (Rozzano), our mission made it into two Milan newspapers. The girl power features are sure to have raised some awareness and compassion amongst Milanese. Win.
We were due to help run the LAC stall at the Milan Vegan Festival. This was another opportunity to take bunting and leaflets and help the LAC team to raise awareness of wildlife crime in Italy. Due to some paperwork not being completed on time, and ridiculous Italian bureaucracy, the whole massive event was cancelled! Fail.
I have mixed feelings on our effort at the CABS Brescia Protection Camp. Fiona and Ruth got to experience what the Brescia volunteers do, how they find evidence of wildlife crime, and how hard it is. It takes years of experience to become proficient in the skills required at this camp. Having newbies along for the trip can jeopardise an investigation. So we helped out by searching areas that have a history of poaching, but are no longer of high risk.
Our effort meant that these locations could be crossed off the list for this autumn, so giving the more experienced volunteers more time to target the high risk sites. In a round-about twisted way, by giving the other volunteers more space to achieve great things, we did actually help to save birds. The Brescia team have so far helped the police to catch six different poachers in the act (of poaching). So obviously we did something worthwhile. But I had really hoped that we could have come across a live trapping site, so that we could have shared the horrors with our mission 500 followers. There is nothing like seeing the real thing for yourself. Win?
Due to a variety of unforeseen mechanical issues, we towed Oom all the way from Brescia to the Ardennes. So, again, we missed many opportunities to dress her up in bunting and raise awareness. Also though, not knowing the French (like I know the Italians – being half one myself), we were unsure of what reaction this would have brought from people along our route. We felt we ought to be a little cautious. Fail.
We arrived in the Ardennes area armed with excellent descriptions of the ‘perfect’ habitat for horse-hair snares, along with probable locations from two different sources. We searched both recommended areas, finding the habitats much changed since when the snares had been observed. Myself, I would have kept roaming around the countryside, searching every tiddly bit of woodland for days. Alas, my team-mates out-voted me and we headed back to England. We may not have found any snares, but this evidence of none is just as important as finding something. These locations, which now have farmland or forestry in place of the old native woodland, do not ever have to be searched again. From our findings (or lack of!), we can better understand that this hideous tradition is almost probably dying out (along with the old men who carried the atrocities out). Win?
Many people joined us on this adventure, through this blog, through our facebook page, through Twitter, and via many publications (both print and on-line). We have certainly raised awareness. And thanks to Oom, we’ve hopefully preached to quite a few not-already-converteds! Thank you, all of you. We really appreciate all the shares and comments of support. This too all counts as saving birds. Win.
Ruth is busy putting together a short docu-video of our mission for youtube, watch this space… The video will also tell you more about a real life wildlife heroine, our fabulous Catia. The type of person you sometimes read about, and I am so proud and happy to know here and have her as a friend. Win.