Abusive party on Isola delle Femmine. Reserve director: 'very serious fact'

Last June 29, an illegal party was held on Isola delle Femmine in the Palermo Sea, following which trash was also left behind. The island is a protected reserve and can only be visited by following a strict protocol. The director of the Nature Reserve lapidary: "very serious fact."

A ruckus, the one that erupted in Palermo over the denunciation by Lipu, Italian League for the Protection of Birds, of an abusive party that was taking place last Saturday in the Isola delle Femmine Nature Reserve, a birthday party. The party would have been that of two twin brothers from Palermo, both doctors, who are used to having non-trivial parties (in villas and sought-after places: last year, for example, at Fiumara d’arte in the province of Messina) to celebrate their double genetliac on June 29. This year for June 29 they were on the Isola delle Femmine with about 80 guests, from ’Palermo bene,’ when to interrupt music and dancing (complete with sound system/lights, console and speakers for music, what to drink and eat) came the Coast Guard, Guardia di Finanza, Carabinieri and Police (a dozen patrol boats) who landed in force to ascertain whether there was permission or not and identify those present. The two doctors claim they had permission from the property to be on the island and their intent was not to have a party as much as to make a promotional video of the area.

Raising the alarm was the Lipu, which has been guardian of the nature reserve since 1998 and runs guided and quota tours during only certain times of the year so as not to disturb protected species. The islet, about fifteen hectares, which gives its name to the municipality that is on dry land, in front of it, is privately owned and has been a Reserve since 1997 with some areas of absolute prohibition due to the strategic particularity it holds in the migratory routes of many birds that use it as an intermediate stop and for nesting. We are talking about cormorants, the grey heron, the kingfisher, the little egret, small passerines some of which are also nesting, such as the redstart, the hatchet and the wagtail, as well as birds of prey from the surrounding areas such as the buzzard and the peregrine falcon. The Blackbird and the Eurasian Nuthatch are nesting birds. The species that is definitely most conspicuous is the Mediterranean Herring Gull, which nests here with several hundred pairs, one of the most significant Mediterranean Herring Gull colonies in the Tyrrhenian Sea. But in addition to the birds there is a land fauna equally worthy of protection.

“The situation,” explains Lipu director general Danilo Selvaggi, “was a carpet of butts, plastic cups, plastic and glass bottles, and wood piled up to make a bonfire. Some of the participants had a sign saying ’Save the Planet.’ It may well be that there was - at least in some, small part - good faith in this initiative, but we can no longer afford, in the 21st century, in the heart of the environmental crisis, to have a protected area invaded in the midst of nesting - when even our guided tours are suspended.”

Investigators are checking in which part of the reserve the party guests landed, whether in the absolute protection zone or in the one where tours are organized but music and dancing anyway, Lipu explained, could not have been authorized in any way.

“From 1998 to yesterday,” explained Vincenzo Di Dio, director of the reserve managed by Lipu. “It had not occurred to anyone to storm the islet. A very serious fact indeed. Also because in this period there are species that nest on the island and from March 1 to June 30 visits are suspended as it is written on the island where there is in several places posted the regulations.”

Further particularity of the affair is that DJ hired for the evening is a former member of the Coast Guard now retired, where he was among other things also in charge of the maritime office of Isola delle Femmine. The DJ tries to set the record straight: “It was not a party, but a video clip to be made on the islet of Isola delle Femmine,” apparently commissioned by the medical brothers who, again according to the DJ, “had authorization from the owner of the islet, Marchesa Paola Pilo Bacci, to make the video to enhance the beauty of the island.” In fact, the islet has been for sale since 2017.

“I am not the organizer of the event on the islet,” the DJ clarified, “I only agreed to DJ the video clip. I read the permission from the owner and was assured that both the Harbor Master’s Office and the managing body had been notified about the making of the video clip. How it ended up is known. But I reiterate that there was no intention to damage the island but to make a video about the four basic elements of nature for the Greek philosophers, water, air, earth and fire. I was a military captain, I would never have participated in a party on the islet. That would have been serious. The party was to be done at the Beach Club, where we then went to Isola delle Femmine. There is nothing for profit, there we wanted to have the party for the video, but we were moving there when the authorities intervened, and they stopped us and brought us down safely.”

Now the investigation will clarify whether it was an exclusive themed party or a way to make a promotional video useful for sale.

The Isle of Females. Photo: Carlo Colomba
The Isle of Females. Photo: Carlo Colomba

The Isle of Females.

Its name seems to derive from “Insula Fimi,” island of Euphemus, named after Euphemus of Messina, Byzantine governor of Sicily. Geographical isolation, offering protection from human aggression, and a wealth of food resources constitute the distinguishing features of this island. These environmental conditions allow more than fifty species of birds to frequent it. The various species alternate throughout the year, indeed we can say that the alternation of species marks the changing of the seasons more punctually than the calendar.

The Isola delle Femmine Oriented Nature Reserve was established in 1997 by the Sicilian Region and has since been managed by Lipu. The island is also a Natura 2000 site and Geosite. In addition to various species of birds, the Field Lizard, the Biacco and two species of Geckos are present. In the year 2021, a small terrestrial snail, Siciliaria leucophryna microinsularis, was discovered, which is endemic, that is, it exists only on Isola delle Femmine. The seabed surrounding the island hosts the trottoir a Vermetidi a bioconstruction similar to coral reefs but made by mollusks characteristic of few sites in the Mediterranean.

The nature trail allows visitors to tour the reserve by reaching the points of greatest interest. The Oasis Visitor Center is located in one of the town’s main squares where parking is easy. The small, quaint seaside village of Isola delle Femmine offers ample opportunities for overnight stays and dining. Please note: the island and the town have the same name but are located opposite each other.

Abusive party on Isola delle Femmine. Reserve director: 'very serious fact'
Abusive party on Isola delle Femmine. Reserve director: 'very serious fact'

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