At this time every year, interest in all things reindeer peaks for much of the world that includes christmas in their seasonal celebrations. A good time then to revisit a blog posting on the reindeer blog that looks into the history of this over a century old connection between reindeer, santa claus and christmas. A story of some fact and much fiction with myth added.
A specialty slaughter house in Norway is going to produce Halal reindeer meat for the first time in Norway. Harry Dyrstad, owner of specialist wildlife abattoir Vilteksperten, north of Trondheim, enlisted the help of a certified halal butcher and has 100 reindeer ready to be sent off to the shops. The butcher has had interest from as far afield as Dubai, and he is looking forward to bringing reindeer to the previously unexplored Muslim market. There is also the growing potential for the local market too. See story here (in Norwegian).
Meanwhile, in Finland, Producers have turned down orders from Germany, France and Spain because they are already struggling to cater for the domestic market, according to YLE. Declining production means Finnish herders will reportedly sell fewer than 80,000 animals for slaughter this year. Prices are expected to rise as the surge in interest continues. A recent request from a German company for 100,000 animals was refused because there are not that many to be slaughtered in the whole of Finland, according to reports. Some processors are already importing carcasses from Russia to help meet demand.
The Al Jazeera news network has released a fascinating 25 minute documentary by filmaker Glenn Ellis that looks specifically at the impacts of massive increase in mining activity in Sweden and Finland and includes segments from the ongoing controversial mining proposal by Beowulf on reindeer herding pastures in Sweden.
Europe’s far north is a place of spectacular beauty, of mountains and forests, lakes and rivers, illuminated in winter by the ethereal glow of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.
It is also home to an astonishing array of plants and animals which have survived largely thanks to the indigenous people of the area – the Sami.
To this day many Sami follow herds of free-roaming reindeer, maintaining a tradition that has helped preserve their ancient environment into the 21st century.
But in recent years a new species has arrived: the multinational mining company. Keen to exploit the region’s extraordinarily rich mineral deposits, the industry is being welcomed by Scandinavian governments who want to share in the bounty of jobs and income they promise to bring. But the Sami feel that their way of life and the remarkable natural world they inhabit are being put under threat. So they have been fighting back.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera here and you can watch the documentary below
On Saturday morning, (09h00 CET / Swedish time) the national Swedish radio station (Sveriges Radio AB) will run a program sent from the reindeer corral in Tjåmodis, Jåhkågasska. The program will be about the mining project proposed for Gallok (Kallok), reindeer herding and Swedish Sami policies in general. Guests include Helena Omma, Rebecca Lawrence, Niklas Spiik and Stefan Andersson.
There has been a lot of media coverage of the travels of the Olympic Flame for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics such as to North Pole and even to the International Space Station for a space walk as it traverses the vastness of Russia. Less attention was paid to the fact that the flame had encounters with reindeer in not only one region of Russia but two – the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Nenets Autonous Okrug. In Sakha, the torch travelled on the back of a reindeer sledge while near Naryan Mar, the torch went for a run with a large herd of reindeer. No word yet if reindeer herding to be accepted as an Olympic sport….
Here is the video of the visit to the herd near Naryan Mar and below, a photo of the flame on the back of a reindeer sledge
Very interesting article about the little known Nenets rebellion against the collectivisation process initiated by the Soviet Union as it happened on the Yamal Peninsula. The article is by Roza Laptander who is one of the board members of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry and is a Nenets academic who grew up on the Yamal Peninsula. She holds a PhD from Saint-Petersburg Institute of the Northern People, Russian Federation. Her spheres of her research include sociolinguistics, the Nenets language, ethnography, linguistic anthropology, socio-cultural changes, and multicultural and language contacts. She is currently engaged in the ORHELIA (“Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic”) project where she works with Nenets reindeer herders in the Yamal Peninsula, their traditional knowledge and oral history about the past and Nenets reaction to present life in conditions of intensive development and industrialization of their traditional territories.
We have added a new series of photo galleries to the Reindeer Portal. Entitled ‘Scenes from Reindeer Husbandry’ we have started with image sets from four of the largest regions of reindeer herding in Eurasia: Sapmi, the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). We will be continually adding images to these galleries and adding more galleries from the smaller regions of reindeer husbandry such as in the Taiga and elsewhere.
When Glen Jeffery first took possession of a huge bag full of reindeer eyes, he didn’t really want them.
Jeffery is a neuroscientist from University College London who studies animal vision, and his Norwegian colleagues had been urging him to study the eyes of reindeer. They wanted to know how these animals cope with three months of constant summer sunlight and three months of perpetual winter darkness. “I thought it was a dumb idea,” says Jeffery. The animals would probably adapt to the changing light through some neurological trick. The eyes weren’t the right place to look.
But the Norwegians persisted, and they eventually sent him a bag full of eyes, taken from animals killed by local Sami herders. The eyes were divided into two sets—one from animals killed in the summer, and another from those killed in the winter. “I opened the bag up and went: Jesus Christ!” says Jeffery. “Hang on. They’re a different colour”
In the summer, reindeer eyes are golden. In the winter, they become a deep, rich blue. “That was completely unexpected,” says Jeffery.
That was 13 years ago. Since then, he has been working to understand the secrets behind the chameleon-like eyes, along with Karl-Arne Stokkan from the University of Tromsø and others.
At the Northern Forum General Assembly in Moscow last week, the importance of the collaborative work of the Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH) was highlighted by one of the key speakers, Mikhail Nikolaev. The General Assembly was attended by the President of Yakutia Yegor Borisov , the Minister of Regional Development of the Russian Federation Igor Slyunyaev , leaders and representatives from 16 regions of Iceland , the Republic of Korea, Japan, Finland, Sweden, the Russian Federation and many more. Also on the agenda is Arctic Agenda 2020: the possibility of cooperation between the Northern Forum and the Global Environment Facility ( GEF) (see Arctic Info).
Nikolaev highlighted how cultural cooperation between Arctic residents can proceed to economic interactions and noted the establishment of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR) was established thanks to the international work of WRH and noted ICR’s work in promoting this ancient livelihood in modern times.
You can read the full speech here (in Russian). Nikolaev is a Deputy of the Duma and member of the State Duma Committee on Regional Policy and the North and the Far East.
The Icelandic design company Gagarin recently completed a 600 m2 design of the wild reindeer exhibition in the Hardangervidda National Park centre in Norway. The Hardangervidda park is Norway’s largest national park and it holds the largest wild reindeer population in Europe. The exhibition is comprised of 13 interactive installations which cover almost everything one can learn about wild reindeer. Users get to explore and experience, via tangible and unique solutions, the various historical, biological and social aspects related to the existence of the reindeer and learn about the various threats that are being imposed on their habitat – mostly by people.
The result is striking. Images from the exhibition here.