Gran Paradiso, the hunting reserve that saved the Ibex

Awarded IUCN Green List status since 2014, the Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy’s first national park extends over five valleys around the Gran Paradiso massif.

Photo: Luciano Ramires

The Gran Paradiso National Park was established in 1922, when King Victor Emanuel III donated his hunting reserve to the Italian State. The Park covers over 71,000 hectares between the Piedmont and the Aosta Valleys in the north-west of Italy. The park has broadleaf woods in the valleys, conifer woods at higher altitudes, and alpine glaciers culminating to the 4,061 meter-high Gran Paradiso peak.

Lavassey Rhemes valley, Gran Paradiso NP, Italy

The establishment of the Gran Paradiso National Park (GPNP) was linked to the protection of the Alpine Ibex (Capra ibex). The Ibex had been decimated throughout Europe and after the Second World War only 416 Ibex were left in the world, all of which were in the park. The Ibex was saved from extinction largely thanks to the Park’s rangers, and today there are nearly 4,000 Ibex in the GPNP alone.

Protecting the Ibex remains a key priority, but the GPNP also aims to protect the Park’s biodiversity, allowing for scientific research, promoting environmental education and practicing sustainable tourism.

Fauna

In addition to the emblematic Alpine Ibex, the park shelters many mammals such as chamoismarmotsmountain harefoxes, badgers, erminesweasels, martens, and stone martens. Raptors such as the golden eagle and the bearded vulture recently returned to nest in the protected area. There are also many reptile varieties, insects and amphibians, such as vipers, the Parnassius butterfly, newts and salamanders.

Economic and social development

In order to guarantee the socio-economic development of the Park’s population, the Park management promotes innovative ways that sustainably integrate people and nature, while preserving its natural heritage,  such as the promotion of agro-silvo-pastoral activities, handicrafts and the traditional local architecture that protect traditional cultural values.

Nivolet Orco valley, Gran Paradiso NP, Italy

The Trademark of Quality Label, a label that the park assigns to tourism, crafts and food operators who are dedicated to quality and sustainability, guarantees the origin of the Park's territory, the quality of workmanship, environmental protection, hospitality, courtesy and the respect for local traditions. So far, 84 small businesses have obtained the label.

 

 

Challenges

A few of the challenges that the Park is facing are climate change, pollution, and the invasion of alien species, but also incorrect soil use, hunting and killing of animals, and unregulated management of non-wood forest products, all of which the Park authorities aim to address in the coming years.

Striving for excellence

Thanks to an exceptional natural heritage, the good ecosystem’s state of conservation, the integration of the touristic and agricultural activities and its role as cross-border alpine protected area, the Park obtained the European Diploma of Protected Areas in 2007, a prestigious acknowledgement of the Council of Europe. The Diploma was awarded in conjunction with the Parc National de la Vanoise and the Mont Avic national park.

Gran Paradiso has been part of the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas programme since 2014 to strengthen its role in preserving the ecological integrity of the ecosystems for present and future generations, as well as to promote socio-economic development for the local population, and enhance and preserve the environmental characteristics of the Park itself.

Nex, Valsavarenche, Gran Paradiso NP, Italy

 

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