Reintroduction of Black Francolino in Sicily

The francolin reintroduction project in Sicily is the result of a thorough analysis of the history of this species in Sicily, also considering its extinction status. The francolin (Francolinus francolinus) is considered a non-huntable species in Europe, with the exception of Cyprus, thus enjoying legal protection under current legislation. This regulatory environment stimulated the initiation of an intensive conservation program, including captive breeding strategies.

A very comprehensive report was sent to Ispra for the purpose of requesting authorization to conduct a reintroduction project of the Francolinus in Sicily; the report was evaluated positively and the release into the wild in Sicily was authorized.

Currently, thanks to conservation efforts, the program has a gene pool of some size, consisting of several pairs of Francolins. These pairs have been critically selected for their suitability for release into the wild. The release locations were carefully chosen to ensure the highest probability of successful reintroduction, especially in terms of reducing anthropogenic disturbance. The three localities are quite distant from each other and have different characteristics, thus allowing their impact on the survival and dispersal of the reintroduced species to be assessed.

The first locality is near Menfi (loc. Capparrina), in the province of Agrigento (Planeta property).

The second locality is at Capo Milazzo, in the province of Messina, and more precisely at the Lucifero Foundation.

The third location, falling within the Madonie Park, is in contrada Volpignano, in the municipality of Collesano.

It was operated as follows.

In the Capparrina locality, a temporary acclimatization aviary was placed in March 2024, in which 15 individuals were released and provided with food and water ad libitum. At a later date, 9 more were added, for a total of 26, including males and females, all ringed with Ispra rings. Release took place after about a month, water and food ad libitum was provided outside the aviary, and a photo trap was set up to monitor the situation after release. Two months after release there is photographic evidence of the return of many individuals in search of water, the formation of a few pairs, and dispersal about a couple of kilometers from the release site. Only after the summer will it be possible to say anything about the outcome of the release.

In the second locality (Capo Milazzo), due to bureaucratic delays, it has not yet been possible to receive authorization for release and it is believed that the operation will have to be postponed until 2025.

At the third location (Madonie Park), the Park Authority has requested clarification about the possibility of interactions between released Francolins and native Sicilian Partridges in the Park; therefore, a protocol on how to operate has been established. Environmental recorders and phototraps are being used to identify possible interactions between the two species. Fourteen Francolins equipped with Ispra rings were placed in a settling aviary and released after about a month (end of April 2024). As of a few days ago, the Francolins have been released and monitoring continues, also with the aim of dispelling any concerns of interaction between the two phasianids.

For more detailed information on the Francolin reintroduction project and release steps, please download the relevant documents at the following links: