Wild boars are marching on Rome. And the Italian capital, perhaps with some delay, is trying to fight back: picnics have been banned and trash cans fenced off in the city's north-western sector to discourage the animals from rummaging around in search of food.
Wild boars have been encroaching on Rome for years. The farmers’ association Coldiretti estimates that around 23,000 boars live on the outskirts of the city, with occasional forays into the city center.
The alarm was raised in early May when the first cases of African swine fever in central Italy were detected in the bodies of three dead boars in the Insugherata nature reserve, an 800-hectare wildlife area to the north of Rome.
African swine fever, a highly contagious and deadly viral disease, can't be transmitted to humans, but it can infect and kill commercial pigs raised for food. The original outbreak of African swine fever was first reported in January in areas of Liguria and Piedmont in north-western Italy; the animals tested in Rome were the first cases to be discovered outside of those regions.
The European Union told Italy to establish an infected zone for African swine fever and implement special control measures to stop it spreading, the Italian news agency ANSA reports.
Health officials in Rome have declared the north-western district, which borders on Vatican City and St. Peter’s Square, a “red zone”. The city must install adequate signage in the parks located within the infected area, reporting the presence of African swine fever in wild boars; the signage must also state that it is prohibited feeding, approaching and disturbing wild boars; that gatherings, including picnics, in parks, and in natural and agricultural areas, are banned and that citizens should report any sighting of carcasses or dying wild boar to the regional Civil Protection department.
Italy’s health ministry undersecretary Andrea Costa said the government was also preparing a plan to cull wild boar to reduce their numbers.
While wild boar attacks are rare, a woman was recently charged as she was taking out the trash in the Balduina neighborhood of Rome. She was taken to the hospital. Wild boar can weigh up to 220 pounds. The incident has prompted several neighborhoods to urge residents not to venture out at night.
"The situation, which we have been denouncing for years, is now out of control," said David Granieri, head of the Lazio region's agricultural association. "This is not acceptable in a capital city."
As #Rome prepares to cull its wild boar population, amid concerns over the spread of swine fever, a large number of #cinghiali were photographed on a street in the northern Balduina district on Tuesday night. pic.twitter.com/A6PmDI7nim— Wanted in Rome (@wantedinrome) May 12, 2022