Feature: Concerns on rise as Rome faces "invasion" of wild boars

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ROME, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Residents of the Italian capital are increasingly outraged as uncollected garbage piles higher on the city's streets. But the problem is making at least one group happy -- wild boars.

Boars, a hairy strain of tusked, undomesticated pig, are native to Italy. For generations, the animal's population has remained more or less consistent, with hunting and urban development keeping it in check. But in recent years, the boar population in Italy has surged to more than 1 million, almost double the population from a decade ago.

Scientists say the main factors behind the population boom are the disappearance of grey wolves, the main natural predator for wild boars, and easier and plentiful access to food.

The number of boars is on the rise all over Italy. But Rome, Italy's largest city and the biggest producer of household waste, has become a particularly attractive habitat for the dangerous beasts, which can weigh up to 140 kg and some 2 meters in body length.

Over the last two years, police have reported hundreds of sightings of wild boar within the Rome city limits, where the animals have resulted in at least two deaths.

"It is a dangerous trend; these are not animals that are compatible with urban settings," Daniele Cimino, a zoologist and author, told Xinhua. "It is a kind of invasion."

In recent years, boars near Rome have attacked and killed family pets, threatened school yards, created traffic jams, and killed two motorists. In one case, a Roman man died from head injuries after his motor scooter crashed into one of the animals. More recently, the driver of a car died of injuries sustained when his car swerved off the road to avoid hitting a group of boars.

A month ago, member of parliament and former government minister Giorgia Meloni caused a stir on social media when she posted a photo she took of one of the animals scrounging for food in a trash heap in Rome's city center. Meloni pointed a finger at Rome mayor Virginia Raggi, who Meloni said "continued to blame previous city administrations" for the trash problem.

Massimiliano Tonelli, founder of the "Roma fa Schifo" (roughly, "Rome is Horrible"), a website that calls attention to the city's shortcomings, said the problems with boars are symbolic of Rome's decline.

"The area around Rome has always been inhabited by wild boars," Tonelli said in an interview. "They are dangerous animals that feast on decay, and they are moving into the city because trash goes uncollected and the streets are dirtier than ever."

Some in Rome are calling on hunters to help reduce the number of wild boars, noting that the animal's meat is a staple of several typical Italian meals. The Italian government last month said it was working on an initiative to train private citizens to kill the animals.

But that strategy brings its own problems: in a single month last year, three people in Italy were shot and killed in three separate incidents -- one of them near Rome -- when hunters mistook them for boar. Enditem

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