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Wildlife in Puglia
Wildlife in Puglia is hugely rich and diverse, with some species that may surprise even the most ardent of nature lovers.
Much of the wildlife stems from the two main national parks: the Gargano National Park (which contains the Umbra Forest Nature Reserve) and the Alta Murgia National Park. There are also many miles of coastline, plus an abundance of mountains, forests and lakes.
In the huge Gargano (1,181 sq km in total), hundreds of animal species can be found around its rocky coasts and Aleppo pine forests. Common are boars, wildcats, avocets, roe deer and many different woodpecker species. Roughly a dozen reptile species inhabit Gargano, most of which are snakes. Some of the more unusual are Italian wall lizards, green-whipped snakes and Italian three-toed skinks.
The Umbra Forest sees countless animal species. As expected, you can see everyday animals such as foxes and badgers. A lot of birds are also native to the area, including diurnal and nocturnal predatory birds. But what makes the forest unique is its curious mix of critters. The Italian roe deer can be found in the forest.
Unfortunately, it is endangered, therefore protected by the WWF and it is not very easy to meet due to its shy nature. Mouflons and fallow deer are easily spotted, however, as they have their own area where they can be viewed from.
In the 68,000-hectare Alta Murgia National Park, there are many fascinating species of larks. This is helped by the park playing a role as an important resting area on birds’ migratory routes from northern Europe to Africa. Birdwatchers would be delighted at the sighting of golden plovers, harrier birds and tawny owls.
The Murgia also hosts amphibians such as colubrid snakes, Kotschy’s gecko, the Italian newt and the yellow-bellied toad, in addition to hundreds of reptile species. Mammals you may see include the beech marten (normally native to central Asia), porcupines, wolves and wild boars. Unfortunately, hunting and extreme changes to the environment have affected Puglian wildlife. The central Europe population of the Little Bustard bird and the fascinating Old World native Egyptian Vulture have both become extinct.
Although not technically wildlife, you can view animals up close at the Zoo Safari at Fasano. Here, you can enjoy bison, giraffes, elephants, lions and tigers from the second largest wildlife park in Europe.
Puglia also boasts an incredible range of sea creatures on one of the longest coastlines in Italy. The region’s fish change throughout the seasons and visitors can get up close by enjoying scuba diving. Typically, you can see anything from seabass, salmon and mackerel, to less-common species such as the swordfish or Japanese amberjack. The several Puglian ports link up to a huge sea populated by sea bream, mullet, shrimp and squid.
You may even see an animal you don’t expect. Flamingos can be found in mild winter months (Salina Dei Monaci park can see hundreds!), along with wild horses and storks. There are even rumours of storks nesting in the ancient buildings of Rome!