On the 8th of January 2021, scientists confirmed the presence of reproducing golden jackals south of the River Po for the first time. Golden jackals first arrived in Italy around 30 years ago from a southern European population originating in the Balkans. Since then, they have gradually been making their way south through Italy.
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Journeying Through Italy
The first European golden jackal made its way into Italy in 1984, first spotted in the North East Italian province of Belluno. The following year, they started breeding in the vicinity of Udine. Following this first breeding event, the golden jackal started spreading to other areas of northern Italy. More recently, the population has also expanded rapidly out towards the Italian Prealps. Individuals have been recorded in Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Piedmont in the past few years. Golden jackal experts, Luca Lapini and his team, believe there to be around 35 reproductive breeding groups. These are mainly located in North East Italy, totalling around 180-190 individuals.
While the golden jackal is now widespread across North East Italy, it has very rarely been spotted south of the River Po. In 2017, Raffaele Gemmato, an ornithologist, filmed a golden jackal in the Province of Modena, south of the River Po. However, after further research, scientists could not confirm any reproductive behaviour going on in relation to this sighting. However, sightings of a single male towards the end of 2020 near Parma in the Emilia Romagna Region, prompted Luca Lapini and his team to conduct two bio-acoustic surveys. They conducted these in order to establish the male’s reproductive status. The survey conducted on the 8th of January 2021 confirmed the presence of a reproductive group of golden jackals south of the River Po for the first time.
Role of Citizen Science
A large part in the discovery of this group was down to the employees of a nearby farm. Smartphone videos taken by members of the farm’s private night surveillance team were useful contributions. They helped confirm the presence of the golden jackal in this area south of the River Po. Scientists working on the conservation of the golden jackal in Italy described the cooperation of the farm as ‘essential’ in verifying the presence of a reproductive group south of the River Po. This exemplifies the role that cooperation between private citizens, scientists and public administrations have to play in wildlife protection.
It is now even more important that people are aware of the efforts being made to protect the golden jackal. The EU’s Habitats Directive 92/43 CEE (V Appendix) and Italy’s National Law 157/1992 ensure the golden jackal’s strict protection status. Despite this, as the golden jackal spreads to new locations, locals must be informed of the golden jackal. Otherwise, they may perceive it as an unwanted intruder, damaging its conservation status. If this can be achieved, then the Italian peninsula offers a habitat full of potential for the species, allowing for its migration even further south of the River Po.