History and mission of the Group

Bruno Bassano
Alpine Wildlife Research Center , Gran Paradiso National Park

History

The Group was formally born as “Gruppo Stambecco Europa” (GSE) in July 1988, as a work of the Sanitary Service of the Gran Paradiso National Park (GPNP), thanks to the initiative of its inspector of that time, Dr. Vittorio Peracino. The main aim that inspired the creation of this group was the collection of information relative to the state of conservation of Alpine ibex on the whole alpine arch. This idea was, in fact, already present in various previous initiatives of the GPNP: In some of Prof. Videsott’s scripts of the 50s one can indeed see that the GPNP was already seen as the main point of reference regarding the conservation of this species, being the axis of reintroduction and repopulation projects in the European Alps.

Actually, even if it is true that Alpine ibex was saved from extinction thanks to the the institution of the protected area around the Gran Paradiso Massif, the GPNP was not the only one to have given a major contribution to the conservation of this species. In fact, a primary role in the protection and redistribution the species was carried out by Switzerland, and particularly by the Canton Graubunden. Maybe it is not casual that it were two veterinarians, Vittorio Peracino (GPNP) and Peider Ratti (Canton Graubunden), that gave a remarkable input to the redistribution of the species on the whole alpine arch during the 70s and 80s.

The GSE brought together amateurs and experts, meeting once a year, to exchange information about the status, distribution and conservation problems of Alpine ibex. The proceedings of the GSE meetings were first xerox copied and latterly printed in form of a yearly bulletin in the Scientific Publication Series of the GPNP. Members coming from all countries of the Alpine area, from France to Slovenia, including Lichtenstein, joined over the time the GSE and participated to its meetings. In 1989 a GSE meeting was carried out to include the Spanish colleagues, who raised issues in connection with the conservation of the Pirenean Ibex, Capra pyrenaica.

In parallel with the initiatives of the GSE, in the mid-80s, Peider Ratti founded the “Gruppo Stambecco Retico”, coordinating at a local level the initiatives of the GSE. The aim and activities of the Gruppo Stambecco Retico and the GSE are similar.

In 1993 the GPNP started the edition of “IBEX Journal of Mountain Ecology’, and since then the proceedings of the GSE meetings have been published regularly as a supplement to this journal.

After a brief period of inactivity the Group met again in the winter of 2000 in Cogne (Aosta Valley, Italy), during the “1st European Conference on Alpine Ibex”. On this occasion, the English denomination “Alpine Ibex European Specialist Group” (AIESG) was added to the original name and acronym of the group (Gruppo Stambecco Europa GSE). During this meeting, the reorganization of the Group, in order to give it an official structure and status, has been proposed and approved by the Assembly of the members. The creation of national directorates, constituted by 2 to 3 representatives per country, has thus been approved. These representatives participate to the regular transnational coordination meetings. The GSE-AIESG Secretariat is held at the GPNP.

Mission

The main mission of the GSE-AIESG is to collect information on the state of conservation of the current ibex populations present on the whole alpine arch.
This initiative was born because of the feeling that for too much time the interest over this species had been quite poor. After disappearing from a large part of the alpine region or present in rather small populations created only recently through reintroductions, Alpine ibex got a purely naturalistic value attracting thus the interest of a only small number of people. The only exception was Switzerland, a country in which the importance of the species, also for the hunting community, was already recognized by the end of the 19th Century. Alpine ibex was hence left to itself, and the initiatives focused on its redistribution on the alpine arch and thus to its conservation were only few. In the last years, also by the merit of the initiatives of
the Group, the interest for this species has increased, and today many local administrations are particularly interested and in favour of the return of this species.

The aim of the GSE-AIESG, through the activity of its experts, is thus the conservation of Alpine ibex to be achieved through the following activities:

  • Encouraging a constant monitoring of the current population, in order to evaluate in a critical way the need of new introductions.
  • Proposing new reintroduction projects in areas considered ideal to the species. This will be evaluated through the application of valid ecological models.
  • Collection of count data from the various populations and making this information accessible to the public through the media and the web.
  • Proposing research projects for the conservation of this species.
  • Organizing periodical meetings with the aim to circulate the knowledge and the studies on the species.
  • Proposing possible management plans to be carried out only on those populations where the densities are compatible with a direct atrophic intervention.
  • The dissemination of the knowledge in relation to this species in order to increase the degree of formation of technicians and hunters.
  • Defining standardized methodologies for counting and estimating ibex densities as well as shared systems of mapping species distribution.
  • Proposing communitarian projects for the conservation and study of this species.