Thursday, August 10, 2006

Museum aims to change wolf's image

Creatures of dark legend are actually very cool, it says

(ANSA) - Pescara, August 10 - A new wolf museum in the mountains of central Italy is aiming to persuade kids that the terrifying animals described by grandma on winter evenings are actually rather cuddly . "It's a scientifically proven fact that wolves don't attack humans and are in fact scared of them," said Walter Mazzitti, head of the Gran Sasso national park in the Abruzzo region .

The park, whose rocky and wooded expanses are inhabited by dozens of wolves, has just created Italy's first Wolf Museum, where children and their parents can learn the 'truth' about the supposedly fierce animals .

"These creatures have a strong sense of smell and when they sense a human presence, even several hundred metres away, they run in the opposite direction," Mazzitti said ahead of Thursday's official inauguration .

The three-story museum, sited near the isolated village of Arsita on the edge of the park, will encourage people to "look at the wolf with new eyes", he continued One of the main boasts of the new facility is an internal walkway which attempts, with the help of multimedia technology, to create the impression of walking through a forest at night. Sensitive panels in the floor set off realistic howling sounds, as recreated moonlight picks out images of wolves that keep appearing on the horizon or poking their snouts out from behind trees .

According to organisers, this will not scare children but help to "create a relationship between the visitor and the wolf" . The whole point, park officials say, is to make people realise that wolves are "a precious presence" in Italian forests, a sign among other things that the eco-system is in good health . Helpful information panels inform visitors that wolves are extremely intelligent animals with a great ability to adapt to circumstances and work out solutions to problems .

"Every wolf is inserted into an organised society: each one has a task to perform and it must perform it well, otherwise the leader of the pack will 'complain' energetically," the museum says .

Visitors also learn about the "persecution" that wolves have suffered in Europe over the centuries, right up until the formulation in recent years of EU laws protecting them .

Elsewhere in the museum, you can inspect a selection of wolf-related paraphernalia, such as wolf traps and the sharp-studded collars that local sheep dogs used to wear to protect their necks from a hungry wolf's jaws . There is also a genuine wolf skeleton, covered with an authentic wolf's pelt. This article is designed to allow young hands to touch something roughly approximating a real wolf .


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