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Reindeer

What threatens wild reindeers?

Wild reindeer is one of the most important Arctic species. The role of the reindeer cannot be overemphasized both for the normal functioning of ecosystems and for the life of indigenous peoples of the North. Food, clothing, everyday life, and culture of Nenets, Chukchi, Sami and other nationalities are directly connected with the deer. Without these animals, they simply cannot exist.

Unfortunately, experts come to disappointing conclusions — the number of wild deer is declining in all northern regions of the country. Now there are about 900 thousand wild reindeer in Russia, and a few decades ago there were 1.5 million. However, if the negative trend continues, soon the number of animals can decrease by orders of magnitude.

The main threats to even-toed ungulates are poaching and uncontrolled hunting, as well as the imperfection of the legislative framework controlling various types of reindeer hunting. For example, the world’s largest Taimyr population has shrunk by almost half over the past decade due to overexploitation. Hunting is conducted in violation of existing time frames, volumes and methods of extraction.

The development of oil and gas sector also threatens the existence of reindeer. Pipelines, roads, and power lines that are rapidly built in the tundra, interfere with seasonal migrations of animals and can lead to complete extinction of the species in some regions.

© Victor Mamontov
Reindeer © Ivan Mizin
The Lapland Reserve. Reindeer in autumn © WWF Russia
© WWF Russia

How to preserve wild reindeers?

According to experts, the big problem is the lack of a unified system for monitoring reindeer. It is necessary to conduct large-scale aviation surveys according to a uniform methodology with the involvement of experienced specialists. The obtained data would help to better assess the condition of the species and would allow developing effective measures for its conservation.

In the near future, experts will undertake a more detailed assessment of the existing threats for each individual population in the Russian Arctic (and there are about 20 of them), and following that they will start to develop joint action plan to reduce these threats.

In order to protect deer from illegal killings, together with authorities and law enforcement agencies, WWF conducts anti-poaching raids, during which outrageous facts are often revealed. Unfortunately, such crimes are very difficult to prove. Nevertheless, WWF continues its work and intends to draw the attention of the governments of the northern regions to the disgraceful facts of barbarous attitude towards rare species.

Another task of the WWF is to attract the attention to the problems of preservation of reindeer not only of the authorities, but also of all residents of the Arctic territories. That is why, on the initiative of the Foundation a new holiday — The Reindeer Day — has been created in 2016 in the Arkhangelsk region, which has already united thousands of northerners. It is celebrated on the 17th of February.