At 11am on the morning of April 26, 1937, a reconnaissance plane circled over Guernica in the Basque region of Spain. The town’s people were nervous. Guernica’s strategic importance was obvious, if the city fell to Franco’s forces then the Basque coastal region would be next and the Nationalists would soon have north Spain under their control. Its inhabitants were also nervous because Mussolini’s air force, in support of the fascists, had already used aerial bombardment on towns in their campaign elsewhere in northern Spain. But it was market day and the town was busy, and despite the nervousness it was business as usual – even after a second spotter aircraft was seen flying overhead in the early afternoon.
There are encouraging signs for bears across Europe. But for one subspecies – numbering only around 50 – the situation is particularly perilous. Efforts are being made to find out more about this isolated population right in the heart of Italy.