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ROME (AP) – Rome has been invaded by Gauls, Visigoths and Vandals over the centuries, but the Eternal City is now dealing with an unbridled force of an entirely different kind: wild boars searching for trash.

Entire families of wild boars have become a daily sight in Rome as groups of 10-30 beasts, young and old, emerge from the vast parks surrounding the city to trot through traffic-congested streets in search of food in Rome’s notoriously overflowing garbage cans.

Posting videos of wild boars on social media has become something of a sport, as exasperated Romans capture scavengers parading through their shops, carts or playgrounds.

As Rome prepares for local elections next weekend, the wild boar invasion has been used as a political weapon to attack Mayor Virginia Raggi over the city’s formidable garbage collection problems. But experts say the problem is more complicated and is related, at least in part, to a booming wild boar population.

Italy’s main agricultural lobby, Coldiretti, estimates that there are more than 2 million wild boars in Italy. The Lazio region surrounding Rome estimates that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 of them in city parks, a few hundred of whom regularly abandon trees and greenery for urban asphalt and garbage containers.

To combat their growing numbers, Lazio launched a program in 2019 to capture the beasts in park cages for slaughter, and last month passed a new decree to allow selective hunting of wild boar in some parks, which until now had been strictly prohibited.

Maurizio Giubbiotti, in charge of Lazio’s parks, says the region needs to increase the slaughter of wild boars from 700 in two years to at least 1,000 annually to control the situation.

In rural Italy, wild boar hunting is a popular sport and most Italians can offer a long list of their favorite wild boar dishes, including pappardelle pasta with wild boar sauce and wild boar stew. But animal rights groups have strongly opposed the mass killing.

Some urban residents do not share those beliefs.

“I’m scared to walk on the sidewalk, because on one side are the garbage containers and they (the wild boars) jump on me,” said Grazia, a 79-year-old grandmother who waits outside a primary school to pick up her grandchildren. She did not give her last name.

Just down the street, a family of wild boars snorted through the garbage.

Their concerns are not out of place: Wild boars can weigh up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds), reach 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) in height, and measure 150 centimeters (5 feet) long, a not insignificant threat especially to animals. elderly and young children. .

“We have been invaded here,” lamented Pino Consolati, who runs a restaurant on a corner of a busy street in Rome’s Monte Mario neighborhood. He said wild boar families routinely roam his area to eat outside in search of food. One day this week, she said, her sister found 30 wild boars outside her shoe store when she left at 8 p.m.

“It’s not a pleasant situation,” he said, shrugging.

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