Country : Italy
Area : Gran Paradiso
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Gran Paradiso National Park (Italian: Parco nazionale del Gran Paradiso,French: Parc national du Grand-Paradis) is an Italian national park in the Graian Alps, between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions. The park is named after Gran Paradiso mountain, which is located in the park, and is contiguous with the French Vanoise national park. The land the park encompasses was initially protected in order to protect the Alpine ibex from poachers, as it was a personal hunting ground for king Victor Emmanuel II, but now also protects other species.
In the early 19th century, due to hunting, the Alpine ibex survived in the Gran Paradiso and Vanoise area. Approximately 60 individual ibex survived, here. Ibex were intensively hunted, partly for sport, but also because their body parts were thought to have therapeutic properties:talismans were made from a small cross-shaped bone near the ibex's heart in order to protect against violent death. Due to the alarming decrease in the ibex population, Victor Emmanuel, soon to be King of Italy, declared the Royal Hunting Reserve of the Gran Paradiso in 1856. A protective guard was created for the ibex. Paths laid out for the ibex are still used today as part of 724 kilometres (450 mi) of marked trails and mule tracks.
In 1920 Victor Emmanuel II's grandson King Victor Emmanuel III donated the park's original 21 square kilometres (5,189 acres), and the park was established in 1922. It was Italy's first national park. There were approximately 4,000 ibex in the park when it was protected. Despite the presence of the park, ibex were poached until 1945, when only 419 remained. Their protection increased, and there are now almost 4,000 in the park.