The old saying goes that only death and taxes are certain. If you live in northern Scandinavia, another certainty can be added at this time of year, that according to the media, there are far too many reindeer and unless numbers are radically reduced, the tundra will become a desert. The media landscape in Finnmark is especially focussing on this topic at the moment and the entire industry in northern Norway is in some amount of turmoil as the Norwegian government seeks to exert an extraordinary level of control on the livelihood, in order to force a reduction in the number of reindeer, and by extension, the number of people that can work in reindeer herding.
So it is a welcome change to read about some research that points to the positive benefits that reindeer have on an ecosystem due their grazing. From the abstract of Maria Väisänen Phd which she defended last week in the University of Oulu. Full manuscript can be downloaded here.
Grazing history by reindeer, with the associated vegetation shift from dwarf shrubs to graminoids, can significantly alter the ecosystem-level consequences of climate warming. Overall, this thesis highlights that the effects of reindeer grazing on soil properties, soil N availability and C quality, are important determinants of the ecosystem responses to climate warming. Therefore, future research on climate warming should take into account herbivores and aim towards a more holistic approach that includes both aboveground and belowground components of the ecosystem.
This reflects what herders have long stated, that the open fell landscapes that people so cherish in Northern Scandinavia, are in fact, a creation of reindeer and their seasonal grazing habits.
The Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation decided to keep the profession of reindeer herder in the list of specialties in institutions of vocational education. This was recently reported by the chair of the Association of World Reindeer Herders Mikhail Pogodaev.
On Monday, December 15th, public hearing on construction of mining plant “Timir”, which will be implemented by EVRAZ Company, was held in Neryungri (Southern Yakutia, Russia).
250 tonnes of reindeer meat may sound like a lot, but actually the Finnish meat company Polarica wanted twice that amount, according to reports in the Yamal Okrug media. The other large purchaser of reindeer meat form the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug is the German company P.Kover e.K. The Vice Governor of the YNAO is quoted as saying that the demand for high quality reindeer meat is higher than ever in the Yamal region as well.
It is unclear from news reports whether the drop in export is linked to the mass deaths of reindeer over the last winters due to catastrophic icing of reindeer pastures in the region, though it may be a factor. In addition it is not clear whether EU sanctions against Russia will impact the future cross border trade of reindeer meat to Europe.
As always, reindeer meat for sale provides the tabloids with a story (particularly in the UK) and various ‘animal rights’ organizations are scandalized – witness the quotes in this recent Daily Mail article about the German supermarket chain Lidl’s line of packaged reindeer meat in the UK.
We the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR) and the Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH) are interested in reindeer pretty much all of the time. We (try to) understand that this is not so for most people. However, as we approach Christmas, interest in reindeer (not so much in herders!) peaks across much of the world. It is also when we receive more visitors to our website than any other time of the year.
This year, we thought we ask a very important to those of us who work, live with and love reindeer: How do you like to eat them? While this might seem a silly, or to some, a provocative question, to herding peoples, it is an important one. Reindeer are the cornerstone of the identity of many indigenous peoples in the North, but perhaps above all, they are an extremely healthy and available source of protein.
I canvassed our colleagues here at ICR and WRH about their favourite way to eat reindeer. See some feedback below. Feel free to add your voice, favourite or recipe to the conversation here on our Facebook or Twitter channels or in the comments section.
One of my favourite answers was from Rávdná Biret Márjá Eira (Sámi, Kautokeino, Norway),
This is a very difficult question Philip! Its too hard to choose, but let’s see: In the fall it is so good with smoked reindeer meat that I fry directly on the fire…a little later it is great with blood sausages and boiled čielgi (back)! and also in the winter….. and then in spring it soooo tasty with coffee and dried reindeer meat during the migration while the herd is resting a little..
This autumn, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation has taken the initiative to exclude about 100 names from the list of specialties of secondary vocational education, including the specialty entitled “technician reindeer herder”.
The reason for this decision is the absence or low enrollment of students for training in specific programs, as well as the fact that “students in secondary vocational education on the basis of secondary education or secondary vocational education study 10 months, which corresponds to the period of training for the professional training program” (from the explanatory note to the draft order of the Ministry of Education and Science).
Every year, at this time of the year, people love to find out about reindeer…most especially those flying ones that accompany Santa Claus on his tour of the world, delivering presents. We at the Reindeer Portal are delighted that everyone wants to know about reindeer at any time of the year, and from our archives, you can read a popular post that looks into the fact and fiction that is connected to this story of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. Read the post here. Since our post, a newer article on LiveScience looked at the connection between the consumption of certain mushrooms and reindeer flight and nicely deconstructs it at the end. Santa on a trip?
For decades, caribou have posed a threat to reindeer herders on the Seward Peninsula — their numbers swelling, even as the reindeer population shrinks.
Now, a new front has developed in the turf war between reindeer and caribou.
An unidentified herd of animals has settled near Serpentine Hot Springs, in close proximity to several reindeer herding operations. And the animals’ presence has both wildlife managers and reindeer herders asking: Are they reindeer or caribou?
“Nobody knows if it’s a caribou herd reestablishing itself on the Seward Peninsula, or if it’s a group of reindeer that have run off and gone feral,” said Greg Finstad with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Reindeer Research program.
In order to solve the mystery, UAF’s Reindeer Research Program is teaming up with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to genetically test the animals.
Watch UArctic President, Lars Kullerud address to the recent conference “Prospects of Sustainable Development” which was hosted by the Government of Sakha Republic (Yakutia).” in Yakutsk, Russia.
Watch Anders Oskal keynote address to the recent Arctic Circle conference, held in Reykjavik.