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The Tragic Loss of Amarena, Abruzzo’s Beloved Marsican Bear

Filled with mountainous terrain and dense forests, the Abruzzo region of Italy provides a sanctuary for the unique flora and fauna that's indigenous to the area, but it is also home to an array of cherished wildlife. The critically endangered Marsican brown bear, for example, is found exclusively in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise. And these bears have come to symbolize the region, often making appearances in the small villages tucked within the lush nature reserve.

Tragically, on August 31st, a horrific incident occurred sparking outrage throughout much of the country: Amarena, a Marsican bear adored by locals, was fatally shot just outside of San Benedetto Dei Marsi. The shooter, a 56-year old butcher and resident of the town, claims that the bear came onto his property and he reacted impulsively out of fear, with no intention of killing Amarena. But as the investigation continues and the town rallies for justice, the National Park’s Director, Luciano Sammarone, has expressed extreme skepticism regarding the shooter’s claim of self defense, especially since Amarena never displayed signs of aggression towards people and was regularly filmed walking among the the locals who loved her.

Last footage of Amarena with her cubs in San Sebastiano Dei Marsi

Amerena (“black cherry”), named after the fruit she was so fond of, was one of only 60 Marsican bears still left in the region. She is survived by her two cubs, for whom park rangers and police officers began an extensive search following the killing. Still just a few months old, both have now been located and are currently being closely monitored by the National Park to ensure they're in good health, as cubs usually rely on the care of their mothers until they’re around 18 months.

In a Facebook post made on September 8th, the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise shared encouraging footage of the two cubs together, looking healthy and doing well despite their adolescence. The National Park Service urges residents and tourists in the area not to disturb the bears and to drive at reduced speeds along the roads. In addition, they encourage sightings of the two cubs to be reported to the local police to assist in ongoing efforts in safeguarding their wellbeing.

Amarena’s sudden death sent shockwaves throughout the area, prompting over 2,000 people to gather on September 10th in protest of her senseless killing. The crowd called for stricter penalties against those who harm regional wildlife and advocated for more conservation measures to be implemented not only in Abruzzo, but throughout Italy. Among the passionate voices calling for change, the animal activist organization Gli Animalisti Italiani is also planning to erect a statue of Amarena in San Benedetto Dei Marsi next year. Their hope is that such a monument will serve as a poignant reminder to all about the importance of protecting the region’s natural heritage and the endangered creatures that call it home.

How You Can Help

Donate to Salviamo l’Orso, the charity dedicated to saving the bears and seeking justice for Amarena

Sign the petition requesting the local Abruzzo Government step up and better protect the endangered bears

Emily Rascon

Emily Rascon is from San Diego, California and is currently in the process of completing her Masters in Human Geography through the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. She has always had a passion for traveling and learning new languages, having lived in Germany and now Italy. Emily loves reading books, going hiking, and of course, practicing her Italian! In addition, Emily enjoys creating content on TikTok, where she documents her life abroad and encourages people to find the confidence to pursue their inner wanderlust.