Reindeer are helping to slow down climate change by grazing on Arctic tundra and leaving vegetation that reflects more solar energy back into space.
Reindeer are best known – at least in much of the northern hemisphere – for pulling Santa’s sleigh, but a new study suggests they may have a part to play in slowing down climate change too.
A team of researchers, writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that when reindeer reduce the height and abundance of shrubs on the Arctic tundra through grazing, the level of surface albedo – the amount of solar energy (shortwave radiation) reflected by the Earth back into space – is increased.
The study’s lead author, Dr Mariska te Beest, from Umeå University in Sweden, said: “Our theory was that heavy grazing by reindeer increases summer albedo, through a reduction in shrub height, abundance and leaf area index (LAI).
Fantastic archival film in Russian about the Association of World Reindeer Herders’ first gathering of reindeer peoples from across the Arctic, held in Tromsø, Norway in 1993. This signalled the beginning of global cooperation between reindeer herders that has continued to this day. The next Congress will be held in Jokkmokk, Sweden, next year.
The Film was made by the Parliamentary Assembly of small-numbered peoples of the North of the Russian Federation and the Author and convener is the President of the Association of Indigenous Small-numbered Peoples of the North of the Russian Federation. The film was written by the late Yeremei Aipin. The Director and cameraman was S. Rakhomyagi
Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto
From the press release announcing a new paper entitled ‘Sea ice, rain-on-snow and tundra reindeer nomadism in Arctic Russia’ published today in the journal, Biology Letters. You can read the article in full here.
Scientists have interviewed nomadic reindeer herders in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug of West Siberia, the world’s most productive reindeer herding region, to look at how global warming is affecting their way of life. While rain-on-snow generally does not cause problems in spring, it can be catastrophic for reindeer in the autumn when rain turns to an ice crust as normal freezing temperatures return. This crust, often several centimetres thick,
prevents the reindeer from feeding on fodder beneath the snow throughout the winter
months. Two extreme weather events in 2006 and 2013 caused mass starvation among the
reindeer herds, and researchers for the first time have linked these extreme weather events
on the coastal mainland in northwest Russia with sea ice loss in the adjoining Barents and
The most recent rain-on-snow event of November 2013 resulted in 61 000 reindeer deaths,
about 22% out of 275 000 reindeer on the Yamal Peninsula, says the paper, which warns
that these events seem to be increasing in severity.
The ICR and WRH team have been in Salekhard, the capital of the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug for the whole week and yesterday, attended an international seminar on the outbreak of anthrax on the Yamal Peninsula this summer. The anthrax outbreak was an event that captured global headlines and aroused significant concern amongst herders and their advocates, as significant reindeer culls have been suggested, and a desire to reduce the number of active herders has also touted. Considerable unease and uncertainty within the livelihood has arisen as a result.
The seminar was a two day event and was opened by the Yamal Governor Dmitry Kobylkin and included presentations by multiple presenters from Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, UK, Germany, Canada and the US on various topics including anthrax outbreaks, pastures, reindeer health, education,
From the ICR/WRH team, presentations were made by Svein Mathiesen (“Social- ecological resilience of reindeer husbandry in times of Arctic change”), Johan Mathis Turi (“The role of traditional knowledge and management in the future”) and ICR board member Roza Laptander from the Arctic Centre, Finland, (“Turbulent periods in the history of Yamal reindeer husbandry in stories of tundra dwellers”)
Fascinating research on predators emerging from NINA in Norway regarding the rate and number of reindeer (and sheep) killed by Lynx is far higher than authorities have previously stated. Indeed, the numbers are far closer to that which herders have always claimed, especially in Troms and Finnmark, that predation by Lynx is a major threat to herders’ economy and livelihood.
In February of this year, 10 Lynx were captured and fitted with GPS collars which were monitored by researchers. Once animals were stationary for some time, researchers would then look for dead animals in those areas. Researchers found that a make lynx can kill a reindeer or sheep each day. One lynx in particular killed 100 reindeer.
While compensation for losses to predators are compensated, up until now Finnmark and Troms County reject 90% of all claims. Hans Ole Eira, Head of the Lakkonjárga district is quoted as saying that he is glad that research is finally proving that herders should be believed.
The tragedy which left 323 reindeer dead in Hardangervidda occured on Friday night, as reported by NRK. The animals were killed by lightning. – There was a quite hard thunderstorm in the afternoon. The herd was probably struck by lightning, said Knut Nylend from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO).
Nechei A. Serotetto, a young Nenets student who took the remarkable step of travelling to Kautokeino in the heart of the Sami reindeer herding area, living there for a year, learning Sami language and applying her acquired knowledge on Nenets and Sami reindeer herding slaughtering techniques and terminology has received top marks for her completed final year paper. Serotetto’s work was for her final paper in teacher education at the Institute of the North, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia. This is a valuable contribution as Nenets slaughtering terminology is highly specific and sometimes ‘secret’ her work is a valuable addition to the broader knowledge and awareness of traditional knowledge of herding peoples. It is worth noting that no-one has ever studied the traditional Nenets way of slaughtering reindeer, making her work groundbreaking, particularly when compared to the more studied Sami practices of slaughter, which she studied and participated in, during her stay in Kautokeino.
Serotetto grew up in a nomadic reindeer herding family in the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the largest single area of reindeer herding in the world where she was immersed in the nomadic herding life of her family and to where she is returning.
An important report authored by Rebecca Lawrence (Uni of Stockholm) and Rasmus Larsen of the (Stockholm Environment Institute) has just been published. Entitled ”Då är det inte renskötsel” – Konsekvenser av en gruvetablering i Laver, Älvsbyn, för Semisjaur Njarg sameby, the report concerns the impacts of Boliden’s proposed mine in Laver, northern Sweden, for the Semisjaur Njarg Sami reindeer herding community.
The proposed mine is on the Semisjaur Njarg community’s winter grazing pastures. Across the Sami reindeer herding area, winter pastures are under pressure and are particularly challenging for herders as they are experiencing intense pasture fragmentation. The district are concerned that the impact of this mine will hinder their ability to practice traditional herding and nomadism in such a way that a herder is quoted as stating ”Då är det inte renskötsel”, or, ‘Then it’s no longer reindeer husbandry’, and the district is opposed to the development of the mine in the Laver area.
Sámi scholar Ellen Inga Turi is defending her Phd on Friday, May 20 in Umeå, Sweden. Her work is groundbreaking and touches on the field of management, reindeer husbandry and traditional ecological knowledge.
The PhD is entitled “State Steering and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Reindeer Herding Governance: Cases from western Finnmark, Norway and Yamal, Russia”. Her Faculty Opponent is Professor Dietrich Soyez from the Department of Geography at University of Cologne, Germany. The thesis is part of the research project IPY EALÁT which has been coordinated by the Sami University of Applied Sciences and UArctic Ealát Institute within the International Reindeer Centre Husbandry in Kautokeino / Guovdageaidnu.
The area of investigation were in the Sami reindeer grazing area of West Finnmark in Norway and the Nenets reindeer grazing area in Yamal, Western Siberia, which are the largest reindeer herding areas in the world, both in terms of number of people and reindeer. In these areas there are certain similarities, but also major differences in terms such as political organization and management systems.
Miessemánu: In northern Sámi language, the month of May is called Miessemánu, or ‘reindeer calf month’, and it is this time of year that the cycle of life continues in the world of reindeer herding. For reindeer and herders life starts anew across the Sámi area, as reindeer are not only giving birth to new calves but they are on the move, most particularly in Norway and Sweden.
In many districts, it is time to leave the winter pastures and travel overland to the summer pastures and reindeer and their herders are travelling over ancient and well worn migratory paths often to the coast, mainly by walking, sometimes by boat, and occasionally by truck to reach their summer pastures. It is also a dangerous time for reindeer – predators are on the move too, and reindeer calves are food for lynx, wolverine, eagles and some bears and wolves. Herders in Scandinavia can lose as many as half of the calves born to their animals, so it is of vigilance and a time for extended families to take part in watching and moving with the herd.
Thanks to ICR board member Roza Laptander for pointing out that Nenets people also have reindeer themed months in their language – April is the ‘false reindeer calving month’ (Сие ниць иры) and May is the reindeer calving month (Ты” ниць иры).
So here’s to Miessemánu, travel safely and watch out for the predators!
A unique Sami language calendar was launched last week in Kautokeino. Entitled ‘Boazojahki‘, it is a calendar that details the calendar year in terms of what it means for reindeer, reindeer herders and the work that must be done at the time of the year. Each month covers an enormous amount of information and insight into the cyclical and nature based world of reindeer husbandry.
The calendar is entirely in Sami language and is aimed primarily at children and youth but is of interest to all with an interest in reindeer herding. The author and creator is Karen Marie Eira Buljo.
Below are some pictures from the launch in Kautokeino. The calendar can be purchased here from the Sami language publisher Davvi Girji.
Between 31 March to 2 April in the village of Topolinoe (Tomponsky ulus, Sakha Republic) during the annual Reindeer Herders Day celebrations (which are held across Russia) there were special celebrations of the 85th anniversary of Vasily Mikhailovich Kladkin’. He was a well known ‘Hero of Socialist Labor’ and an ‘Honored Worker of Agriculture’.
Kladkin Vasily Mikhailovich (10.01.1931-27.05.2003) was a reindeer herder and Director of the sovkhoz. Not only are the residents of Topolinoe proud of him, but also the entire Republic. Under his leadership, the kolkhoz “Tomponsky” achieved outstanding success with regard to its economic indicators in the field of reindeer husbandry. Through effective organization and an intensive pre-slaughter fattening of reindeer, there was an increase in meat production and meat quality specifically and more generally, an improved local and regional economy and livelihood.
On February 9th, a seminar is being held in Kautokeino to mark the launch and publication of this important new book: “Samisk reindrift, norske meter”. Although the final participant list and presentations are to be finalized, there will be presentations and discussions led by the book lead authors and editors, Tor A. Benjaminsen (NMBU), Inger Marie Gaup Eira and Mikkel Nils Sara (Sami University College). Read this post here on the Reindeer Portal to read more about the book and where it can be purchased and here to read about the DÁVGGAS project. The seminar is being organized by NMBU, ICR, UEI and the Sami University College.
Samisk reindrift, norske myter. Finnes det alternative løsninger for forvaltningen av reindriften i Finnmark?
Fagseminar i forbindelse med lansering av en ny fagbok om samisk reindrift i Finnmark Diehtosiida, Guovdageaidnu-Kautokeino 9. februar 2016, kl 09.00-14.00
A new book goes on sale today entitled ‘Samisk reindrift, Norske Myter’ (Sami reindeer husbandry, Norwegian myths) and it is the primary deliverable from the DÁVGGAS project, an interdisciplinary project involving researchers from NMBU and the Sami University College.
Edited by Tor A. Benjaminsen, Inger Marie Gaup Eira and Mikkel Nils Sara, the book is a collection of articles written by the project resaerchers and is sure to be an important contribution to the ongoing and often contested debates surrounding the continuation of an age old indigenous livelihood with the confines of a contemporary nation state. A seminar held in combination with the books publication will be held in Kautokeino, on February 9, 2016 (details to follow). The book is in Norwegian – you can view the introductory chapter here and purchase the book here.
Nice short animation that illustrates how human changes to the landscape (roads, railways, hydropower, cabins, tourist trails) have impacted the wild reindeer herds in Dovrefjell and Rondane, southern Norway – which is home to Europes’ last wild herd of reindeer. Of course these landscape changes impact semi domesticated reindeer in the same way. The film was produced by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research as part of the project ‘Renewable-Reindeer‘
Beautiful footage shot by by Jan Helmer Olsen who lives in Karasjok. It is shot by drone and taken while the reindeer migrate to their winter pastures, in Finnmarksvidda, Norway. The migration is timeless and majestic and is part of the perennial rhythm of herding life in the North.
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?
Per Jonas Partapuoli, board member of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, addressed the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris on Saturday, December 5th, an event that is shadowing the much larger COP 21 negotiations. From the Global Landscapes website,
The respect and recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, customary land tenure and traditional knowledge have significantly contributed to more sustainable use and management of various ecosystems. Speakers at the session represent both Indigenous Peoples’ organizations and corporate representatives to explore the crucial question: Is a triple-win – where the economy, people and the climate all benefit – possible, despite the many documented and potential conflicts.
Per Jonas talks at 30.30 into the video and raises the work of the EALLIN project and the challenges facing reindeer herding in Sapmi, with a focus on the mining giant LKAB and Kiruna.
“My family have been practicing reindeer herding long before Sweden became a country”
News from Yamal – according to a news report, the extension of the Bovanenkovo railway to the newly constructed seaport at Sabetta has been given official approval. The railway is already the most northerly railway in the world and this will extend it further northwards be several hundred kilometres, bringing the railway to the east coast of the Yamal Peninsula for the first time. The peninsula is the largest single area of reindeer husbandry in the world where primarily Nenets herders undertake long seasonal migrations with their reindeer. This railway will bisect migration routes and result in a sizeable footprint in the construction and operation zone.
On November 25, 2015, Legislative Assembly of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District approved the Law on participation in the strategic project “Construction and Operation of the New Non-Common Use Railway Line Bovanenkovo-Sabetta”. The railway is to be built and operated under the principles of private-public partnership with the conclusion of an agreement with the District’s Government.
The new line will be a continuation of the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line in compliance with the strategy for social and economic development of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District through 2020. It is particularly focused on ensuring the construction of railway infrastructure at Sabetta seaport and transportation of cargoes by the Northern Sea Route. Source.
You can see imagery of the railway on the Gazprom website.
The Union of Reindeer Herders of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug has launched an impressive website that is part of a larger strategy to develop, document and improve the lives of reindeer herders in the region.
Currently the Union, based in the regional capital Naryan-Mar (and is a member of the Association of World Reindeer Herders) comprises of 6 family, indigenous communities and 8 agricultural production cooperatives. The website is in Russian, and features news, video, photography. There are plans to expand this information portal into a commercial venture where herders products can be sold and later, there are plans to develop an archive and library.
You can visit the website here. Below is a very nice short video of reindeer herding in the region made by the Union.
The Midnite Sun Reindeer Ranch in Nome, Alaska has taken the unusual step of turning to crowdfunding to raise the estimated $200,000 needed to purchase 2 winter insulated mobile slaughtering unit, in order that they could slaughter and process reindeer meat year round and obtain a USDA licence which would give them the possibility to broaden the scope of their sales. Currently they are only permitted to slaughter on frozen ground and sell to other processors and local people.
According to an article on the KNOM Radio Mission (listen / read here on their site), there are no USDA approved reindeer meat processors in the region. The ranch is hopeful that there is a pent up demand for locally available, fresh, quality meat. You can read about the ranch and their crowdfunding campaign ‘Mobile Slaughter Unit & Process Unit’ here on Indiegogo (so far, they have raised $250..there is some way to go..).
A big budget and highly stylized feature film has been released which revolves around the Tsataan reindeer herders in Mongolia. Called ‘Sodura’, the film has been made in Mongolia and features Mongolian actors and presumably used people who knew how to handle reindeer as the trailer shows extensive scenes of reindeer herding, herding and migrating. ‘Sodura’, is the name of the heroine of the film, who is played by the well known Mongolian singer Ochgerel. The trailer shows a highly dramatic storyline and Mongolian media is reporting that it will be an entry into the Cannes film festival of 2016. You can watch it below.
Dukha, or Tsataan reindeer herders are one of the smallest numbered herding groups in the world and face enormous challenges related to the breakneck speed of development in Mongolia and the development of nature protected areas around the Lake Hovsgol region where they live alongside many other challenges. The Nomadic Herders project led by ICR is a partner with several herding peoples in the taiga, including Tsataan.
Every year the Paliskuntain yhdistys the governing body of the reindeer herding cooperatives in Finland hosts the poroparlamentti (Reindeer Parliament) in Rovaniemi. Today, the 67th Reindeer Parliament is now underway and continues tomorrow.
You watch the livestream (and archived streams) here, follow the event on Facebook here and follow the hashtag #poroparlamentti.
(Taken from the Arctic Ungulate Conference (AUC) website). The AUC is an international conference held every four years. The UNESCO world heritage site at Røros in Norway will be the host for the upcoming AUC in August 2015.
The arctic and northern areas are facing great social-ecological changes by ongoing industrial developments and global climate change. These rapid changes creates great concerns for conservation of biological resources and the important human cultures found alongside reindeer and caribou. The conference will focus on how we best can meet these challenges and improve the interface between science and policy making through state of the art examples from both management and science on arctic ungulates. The theme of the conference – “the past, the present and the future” – allows us to look back at the 2nd Reindeer and Caribou Symposium held in Røros in 1979, and to highlight the evolution of research and management as well as identify the most appropriate future research and management directions. The scientific programme will focus on the following main four themes:
Last week the Balsfjord to Hammerfest power line received final approval from the Norwegian government (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy). Construction can now begin. This is a major investment by Statnett (3-4 billion NOK) in a 420 Kv power line that will be 360 km long, 40 metres wide and cross 8 municipalities (Statnett).
The route of the Balsfjord power line. Source: statnett.no
It will cross 30 reindeer herding districts in northern Norway and have dramatic impacts on some districts, according to herders. Herders have been vociferous in their opposition to the project and have asked for it either shelved or that significant route alterations be undertaken, or that areas critically effected could have submarine/underground construction.
Acting Head of NRL, Per John Anti believes the consequences for reindeer herding in the area will be negative.
It will particularly impact on calving country. Research shows that the reindeer avoids areas from one to four kilometers from the disturbance, particularly females with calves. This causes pressure in other areas of these regions.
Miessemánu: In northern Sami language, the month of May is called Miessemánu, or ‘reindeer calf month’, and it is this time of year that the cycle of life continues in the world of reindeer herding. For reindeer and herders life starts anew across the Sami area, as reindeer are not only giving birth to new calves but they are on the move, most particularly in Norway and Sweden.
In many districts, it is time to leave the winter pastures and travel overland to the summer pastures and Reindeer and their herders are travelling over ancient and well worn migratory paths often to the coast, mainly by walking, sometimes by boat, and occasionally by truck to reach their summer pastures. It is also a dangerous time for reindeer – predators are on the move too, and reindeer calves are food for lynx, wolverine, eagles and some bears and wolves. Many herders lose as many as half of the calves born to their animals, so it is a time for whole families to take part in watching and moving with the herd.
So here’s to Miessemánu, travel safe, arrive alive..
PRESS RELEASE ON THE OCCASION OF THE ARCTIC COUNCIL MINISTERIAL (Download as a PDF) April 24, 2015: Iqaluit, Canada
Reindeer Herding Youth Take Action on Arctic Change
Young Reindeer Herders Deliver Strong Message to Arctic Foreign Ministers at the 9th Arctic Council Ministerial in Canada
“For us, the reindeer is everything. If we lose the reindeer we lose our language, our culture, our traditions and the knowledge to move in the nature.”
[Participant at the EALLIN workshop in Jokkmokk, 2013]
A unique project called EALLIN involving reindeer herding youth from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway has delivered a 120-page report, executive summary and recommendations to the Artic Council Ministerial meeting in Canada today. More than 160 indigenous youth from multiple regions in Russia, Mongolia, Finland, Sweden and Norway participated in 12 community based workskops over four years. “EALLIN” means ‘life’ in the Sami language and the project was backed by Norway, the Russian Federation and the Saami Council. EALLIN calls attention to the serious challenges faced by young reindeer herders, such as mental health, a lack of appropriate education and a lack of participation in local community development.
Reindeer herding youth are the future of reindeer herding, and the strong message from engaged youth was that they wanted to continue herding reindeer, as it ‘a good life’. However, there are many issues and challenges that are making life ‘not so good’ everywhere where reindeer are herded. EALLIN brought young reindeer herders of the taiga and tundra together to bring their voices to the Arctic Council. Reindeer herdings youth in the Circumpolar North are on the frontlines of monitoring the rapid ongoing changes in the Arctic, therefore, their knowledge and skills are key for their future existence in their home pastures and territories.
“Our peoples are undergoing dramatic and historical changes in our homelands, changes that we have never seen in the millenia-old histories of the reindeer herding peoples of the north” states Arctic Council EALLIN Project Lead Dr Mikhail Pogodaev, the Executive Chair of Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH).
“We know enough about the changes to act”, concludes Anders Oskal, Project Co-Lead and Co-Author of the IPCC 5th Report. “We don’t need more assessments to understand, basically, we have to do things differently now if these societies and cultures are to survive and thrive under the Arctic boom – and bust”. And doing things differently is exactly what the EALLIN report calls for.
Delivered to Arctic Council: “Youth – The Future of Reindeer Herding Peoples – Executive Summary” and “Youth – The Future of Reindeer Herding Peoples”, Full Project Report 120 pages,
The office manager of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry Mikkel Anders Kemi was recently in Inuvik for the 80th anniversary of the introduction of reindeer herding to Canada. Mikkel Anders is also a reindeer herder so he knows a thing or two about herding. While there, he strapped on a GoPro camera got on his snowmobile to assist in the annual migration of the Canadian herd which numbers some 3000 reindeer. CBC North have posted the video here which you can see below. CBC North also posted a longer article about the introduction of reindeer to Inuvik which you can read here.
Here's what it feels like to be a reindeer herder. Mikkel Kemi, a Saami from Norway, strapped a GoPro to his head while he was out on the tundra outside Tuktoyaktuk. Thanks Kemi and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation for sharing this video. Full story: cbc.ca/1.3014151
Reindeer herders were invited to Inuvik by Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Canadian Reindeer Husbandry, where they can also share their experience in reindeer herding and food culture, and present exhibition in traditional handicraft.
Drones are appearing all over the place these days, it is probably only a matter of time before the larger ones become more stringently regulated. In the meantime, here is a nice video made by a drone, of the ‘Reindeer Herders Day’ in Iengra (which took place last week) in the Republic of Sakha Yakutia, Russia. Iengra is nearly 900 km of the regions’ capital Yakutsk. Many Evenki and Eveny herders live in and around the village, and herders from here are part of the Nomadic Herders project.
Reindeer Herders’ days occur all over Russia at this time of year and are a celebration of the profession of reindeer herding and usually there are reindeer races, various competitions, ceremonies and more.
Sametingsrådet inviterer til oppstartskonferanse i forbindelse med sametingsmelding om reindrift 25.-26.02.2015. Sted: Diehtosiida, Kautokeino
På mange måter står reindrifta i 2015 ved et veiskille.
Utfordringene er mange. Det føres en samfunns- og næringspolitikk som krever nye og større deler av eksisterende reinbeiteområdene. Den økonomiske utviklingen i reindriftsnæringa de siste årene er bekymringsfull, med økende kostnader og nedgang i inntektene. Et økende rovvilttrykk fører til store økonomiske tap og bekymringer.
Samtidig er det viktig å ha framtidstro. Den samiske reindrifta har en lang historie, den har gitt inntekt og liv til mennesker i århundrer. Reindrifta har alle muligheter for å utvikles som en bærekraftig næring samtidig som man holder fast på de dype røttene reindrifta har i den samiske kulturen. Reindrifta er en viktig del av samisk kultur og av det samiske samfunnet. Reindrifta selv og det samiske samfunnet må gå i front på veien som fører til en framtidig og livskraftig næring.
Sametinget skal, sett i forhold til de visjoner og mål vi har for et framtidig samisk samfunn, være med på å utforme de overordnede langsiktige målene og strategiene for reindriftsnæringa. Med en ny Sametingsmelding om reindrift, ønsker Sametingsrådet sammen med næringa å arbeide for en trygg framtid for reindrifta.
The Second Arctic Human Development Report has just been published and can be downloaded for free from this link, published by Norden, the Nordic Council of Ministers. A good deal of the report deals with indigenous peoples, traditional livelihoods and reindeer herding in particular. Download the full report (500 pages) here.
From the abstract:
The goals of the second volume of the AHDR – Arctic Human Development Report: Regional Processes and Global Linkages – are to provide an update to the first AHDR (2004) in terms of an assessment of the state of Arctic human development; to highlight the major trends and changes unfolding related to the various issues and thematic areas of human development in the Arctic over the past decade; and, based on this assessment, to identify policy relevant conclusions and key gaps in knowledge, new and emerging Arctic success stories.
The production of AHDR-II on the tenth anniversary of the first AHDR makes it possible to move beyond the baseline assessment to make valuable comparisons and contrasts across a decade of persistent and rapid change in the North. It addresses critical issues and emerging challenges in Arctic living conditions, quality of life in the North, global change impacts and adaptation, and Indigenous livelihoods.
The assessment contributes to our understanding of the interplay and consequences of physical and social change processes affecting Arctic residents’ quality of life, at both the regional and global scales. It shows that the Arctic is not a homogenous region. Impacts of globalization and environmental change differ within and between regions, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous northerners, between genders and along other axes.
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?
Grazing by reindeer (Rangifer tarandus L.) affects vegetation and soil microbial processes in tundra ecosystems. It is considered that grazing can induce two alternative vegetation states that differ in plant species composition and the rate of nutrient cycling. The doctoral dissertation of Master of Science Maria Väisänen shows that the grazing history by reindeer, with the associated vegetation shift from dwarf shrubs to graminoids, can significantly alter the ecosystem-level consequences of climate warming.
The academic dissertation of researcher Maria Väisänen is a part of a research project funded by the Academy of Finland and led by Doctor Sari Stark. The project was working at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland from summer 2012 to summer 2014, as part of the Global Change research group, led by research professor Bruce Forbes.Master of Science Maria Väisänen’s dissertation “Ecosystem-level consequences of climate warming in tundra under differing grazing pressures by reindeer“ was examined on 18th December 2014 in the University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology. The opponent was Professor Philip Wookey from Heriot-Watt University, Great Britain.
Full manuscript can be downloaded here. (source Arctic Centre)
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).
On November 25 the festival of national cultures of the indigenous people of the North, Siberia and the Far East finished its work. The festival is held annually by the Indigenous Peoples Institute of Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia. This event was attended by a professor of the UArctic EALAT Institute Svein Mathiesen and the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry – Anders Oskal, Inger Anita Smuk and Elna Sara.
RT and Isvestia were reporting yesterday that the police authorities in the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug were considering using reindeer for assisting them in their police work. Trying to keep a straight face here in the Reindeer Portal, we read,
The idea of purchasing livestock reindeer is currently being discussed within the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a potentially effective measure to curb the crime rate, a source told Izvestia newspaper.
“At the meetings it was noted that the criminals often hide in the tundra and other hard to reach places using reindeer sleds, where the police do not always have a chance to pursue them. The same problem arises with the delivery of the suspects to police stations,” the source told the publication.
Reindeer herding and land use management – Nordic perspectives Seminar gathers reindeer herding researchers and experts to Rovaniemi, Finland 19th–21st October 2014. The main focus of the seminar, held in Arktikum, is on is
sues related to reindeer herding and land use questions in the Nordic reindeer herding area.
Last year probably the most widely circulated story about reindeer on the internet was the one about the special spray that the Finnish Reindeer Herders’ Cooperative introduced for reindeer antlers for testing. The testing wrapped earlier this year and now, with the winter coming again, new tests are scheduled to begin. These tests will be on about 300 reindeer in 6 cooperatives in the Rovaniemi region in Finland.
Reindeer losses to accidents on the roads are considerable. In Finland alone, 3500-4500 reindeer are killed by collisions with cars and trucks each year, with the peak period being the ‘dark time’ between the months of November and January.
A new product from the Swedish company Albedo100 will be used which it is hoped will prove to be a more sturdy and sustainable solution than the previous product tested which disappointed in trials.
We here at the Reindeer Portal know all about how wonderful reindeer are. Science is also finding out new wonders about reindeer all the time. The short podcast below is about how their saliva can prevent the production of toxins in plants and fungus favoured by reindeer and moose. Source: Scientific American
There are not many stories out of China that are about the Evenki reindeer herders that are still practising reindeer husbandry in the North East of the country. The Shanghai Daily has just carried a story on the reindeer herders of China, who number in the tens.
HOHHOT, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — Soon, tribesman Gu Wenqiang will have to bid farewell to his herd of deer, leaving his small shack tucked away in the lush green forests of the Greater Khingan Range.
After more than a month of tending the herd of reindeer, the 36 year old will soon drive from his temporary shelter and return to his hometown of Aoluguya Ewenki located 50 km away. It’s an occurance that’s happening more frequently these days.
For Gu and others from the Aoluguya Ewenki tribe, dubbed “the last hunting tribe of China,” such trips have become routine following the tribe’s relocation to a township near Genhe City, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, from the mountain forests eleven years ago. For a decade, nomadic life has been the only choice to keep their ancient culture alive.
The Guardian newspaper carried a lengthy article on the explosion of mining in northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. As anyone resident in the region knows, there is a huge minerals exploitation boom underway and many are surprised to learn that this part of the world has very favourable regulations regarding the claims process for mining. This boom is directly impacting on reindeer pasture loss. To give an idea of the scale of the boom, the article notes that,
So far in 2014, 349 applications for mining permits have been made, of which 243 have been for Finland. Over one-eighth of Finland, an area twice the size of Wales, has now been designated for mining and hundreds of applications for exploration licenses have been received by the government.
Currently in the Finnish media, attention is being paid to the massive open pit mine planned for the Sokli area,
Fertiliser company Yara International plans a massive 40-60 sq km open-cast phosphorus mine near Sokli in eastern Lapland between the Urho Kekkonen national park and the Värriö nature park. Billions of gallons of polluted waste water would have to be be drained, via pristine lakes and rivers, and millions of tonnes of waste would be created every year.
With the broadening of sanctions being applied on both sides of the current dispute between Russia and NATO members over the current conflict in Ukraine, there might be a silver lining for domestic producers of meat, such as reindeer herders in Russia as imports of US meat and poultry is halted. The state run importer of foodstuffs in Chukotka (Chukotopttorg) has announced that it will be turning to reindeer meat so that local schools, hospitals and institutions are able to meet their needs, according to various reports (see here for a story from the Siberian Times, and here from the Moscow Times.
One does wonder however, why it has taken so long?
Some reindeer herders are concerned that a planned Statnett powerline from Balsfjord to Hammerfest could interfere with herding in Finnmark.
Reindeer might avoid the planned powerline from as far away as five kilometers, reducing the amount of area herders can use, said Anders Eira, a reindeer herder and a senior adviser in the Sami group Protect Sápmi, to the BarentsObserver.
A 150-kilometer segment of the project is expected to be completed by 2018 but there is no definite timetable for the remaining 350 kilometers.
Eira said the powerline will go through 30 herding districts and could affect as many as 300 herders. He said he is particularly concerned about reindeer seeing ultraviolet light from the powerline.
According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, in order to adapt to the extreme seasonal light changes of the Arctic region, a reindeer’s eyes do not block out all ultraviolet rays.
(see Statnet’s information page about this project here.
Many reindeer herders in Northern Norway use old Norwegian Navy landing craft to ferry reindeer every year to their summer pastures on various islands in Troms and Finnmark counties. Norwegian photographer Jan Olsen has shot this stunning time lapse video of reindeer migrating to their summer pastures.
Photographer Bryan Alexander has travelled Siberia documenting the lives of the Chukchi, Dolgan, Even, Khanty, Komi, Nenets, and Nganasan people, showing their traditional camps, transportation and dress, as well as activities such as herding, hunting and fishing. ‘Whisper of the Stars: Traditional Life in the Arctic’ Siberia is at the Horniman Museum in London, till September 2014.
Extensive article by Georgy Borodyansky, an Omsk-based correspondent for Novaya Gazeta whichlooks at the difficulties facing reindeer herders in the Khanty–Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug (KhMAO) in western Siberia which is a major oil producing region.
Executives at petrochemical giant Lukoil are accustomed to conquering time and space from their computers in their glass and concrete skyscrapers. But they have encountered an unexpected problem: a family of reindeer herders is resisting the corporation’s takeover of its ancestral camping ground in the Khanty–Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug (KhMAO) in western Siberia. From the window of their skyscraper, it’s just about the end of the earth.
The Aipin family, like most of northern Russia’s indigenous peoples, live on top of the so-far inexhaustible mineral resources that literally underlie the prosperity of not only the oil companies but of Russia itself, with its Olympic Games, summits, forums and Forbes List ratings. The area produces over half of Russia’s oil, but the Khanty themselves have no need of this black gold gushing from below the land where their ancestors have lived for more than a thousand years. What they need is the forests and the white snow that, as the great Kola Beldy, himself from the Nanai indigenous people, used to sing, ‘melts on the horizon into the white sky’; lichen for their herds in the winter and berries and mushrooms in the summer.
Local reindeer grazing history is an important determinant in the response of an ecosystem’s carbon sink to climate warming, say researchers. The significance of reindeer grazing history to tundra carbon balances has not been previously studied. The present results may modify climate models that predict the effects of global warming on global carbon cycles. The study shows that it is critical to know the grazing history before the responses of tundra carbon balances to climate warming can be understood. Different tundra systems possess highly varying grazing histories as a result of past and present reindeer management practices.
Wednesday, 19th of March. Reindeer continue dying. Yamal region needs help to get out of this catastrophic situation. Because of the ice crust unfortunate animals simply cannot get to the lichen. As a result dozens of reindeer corpses spread all over the tundra. On the way to the ‘Yarsalinskoe’ enterprise: shocking scenes are practically on every hundred meters. Reindeer which exhausted from hunger just lie down in the snow and fall asleep and been a very easy capture for predators. The director of Yarsalinskoe enterprise Liliya Yakubova said that currently enterprise has lost about 5-6 thousand of reindeer, but no one can give the real number for now.
At the conference “Days of Beringia” that was held the last time in 2013, the participants concerned the fact that today there is less connection between Chukotka and Alaska, contacts between related indigenous peoples of the two countries have weakened. It was stressed that even in the difficult 90’s connection were much closer, that cultural exchange was carried out regularly enough. And one of the decisions of the conference was to have conferences through TV and radio service (since today there is no means for regular trips overseas). It was scheduled to have twelve of suchlike conferences in 2014.
UV vision help reindeers find plants in snow cover, but in the depths of winter their wide irises and sensitive eyes means the power lines appear particularly bright.
Power lines are seen as glowing and flashing bands across the sky by many animals, research has revealed.
The work suggests that the pylons and wires that stretch across many landscapes are having a worldwide impact on wildlife.
Scientists knew many creatures avoid power lines but the reason why was mysterious as they are not impassable physical barriers. Now, a new understanding of just how many species can see the ultraviolet light – which is invisible to humans – has revealed the major visual impact of the power lines.
“It was a big surprise but we now think the majority of animals can see UV light,” said Professor Glen Jeffery, a vision expert at University College London. “There is no reason why this phenomenon is not occuring around the world.”
Dr Nicolas Tyler, an ecologist at UIT The Arctic University of Norway and another member of the research team, said: “The flashes occur at random in time and space, so the power lines are not grey and passive, but seen as lines of light flashing.”
When speaking of drones, military uses spring to mind. This is changing however and their shrinking size and falling prices have meant that people are using drones for an increasingly wide range of activities. Ovttas (ovttas.no) commissioned Luftfoto Finnmark to film a reindeer roundup at a corral just south of Kautokeino using a drone. The results are stunning. See below..
District Department of Agriculture, Trade and Food prepared and submitted for approval to the governor’s office draft decree “On the allocation of the emergency reserve fund of the Yamal autonomous district’s government”. The project prioritized events for elimination of critical emergency, related to the loss of reindeer, and sum of expenses. According to operative data, the number of dead reindeer is now about 15 thousand.
On the basis of the represented needs of municipalities for the elimination of critical emergency from the reserve fund there will be allocated 31,590 million rubles.
Reindeer herders also will be supported with financial support. There also will be providing with carbohydrate-vitamin-mineral supplements, feed concentrates, as well as fuel, purchase of veterinary medicines and firewood for reindeer herders in remote areas.
(Source: UNESCO) Local communities develop nuanced systems of knowledge specific to their natural surroundings. The Sami language is a prime example of that intimate relationship between the physical environment and language. Located in the Arctic, Sami reindeer herders have developed a sophisticated terminology to describe their unique and variable milieu, which reveals interrelated-aspects of the impacts of climate change.
Sami reindeer herding is practiced in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. One of the centres for herding, in Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino), Northern Norway, involves 1,700 people and 93,500 reindeer. Snow covers the ground more than seven months of the year and reindeer survival is dependent on the ability to access
lichen through the snow. Given the extremely variable conditions of the Arctic, the Sami must make timely strategic decisions to ensure the herd’s well-being.
(Source: Globe and Mail, Canada) Tracts of land that had been set aside for reindeer grazing in Canada’s North have instead been offered up by the Conservative government for oil and gas exploration, newly released documents show.
Companies interested in obtaining petroleum exploration rights in the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea region of the Northwest Territories were asked last year to nominate blocks of land that they wanted to see included in a subsequent call for bids.
Reindeer-grazing reserves near the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk were among the lands that were included in that call for nominations, pending a necessary amendment to an order-in-council imposed in 2010.
Documents show officials at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada have discussed just such an amendment in order to allow the reindeer-grazing land to be included in the bidding for exploration licences.
“Most Crown lands in the Mackenzie Delta are withdrawn from disposal under an order-in-council to allow for a reindeer-grazing reserve,” says a briefing note to a top department official from last August.
Thursday was Sami National Day, celebrated internationally by indigenous people of the European Arctic, including in Sweden.
It was also the time when the annual Jokkmokk Winter Market, with a history over 400 years old, started in the far north of Sweden, just above the Arctic Circle. But the market is not without its controversies, and several artists are boycotting this year due to disputes over the possible establishment of a mine in Kallak, located in the municipality of Jokkmokk.
A handful of artists, designers and culture workers who were originally planning to participate in the Jokkmokk Market have announced their decision to boycott.
Perth based mining company Hannans Reward is hoping to develop open cut mines in Sweden’s north. But as Verica Jokic writes Indigenous communities argue the mines will endanger their traditional way of life. (Source ABC Bush Telegraph)
Hannans Reward is undertaking several exploratory operations near a town called Kiruna to see if it can proceed with open pit iron-ore, copper and gold mines.
But the location of the proposed mines is on Indigenous Saami land and critical reindeer herding habitats.
The Saami say the mines will threaten their millennia old culture and they’ve started a campaign to stop the Australian company.
Mats Berg is a representative of the Laevas and Girjas Saami Communities in Sweden’s north.
He says the new mines will cut the Saami communities in half, leave 20,000 reindeer without grazing lands, and directly affect the animals’ migratory path.
The mild winter even in Sweden’s northern areas has led to a record number of Sami reindeer herders filing requests for emergency food aid.
The situation looks really bad,” says Soren Långberg at the Sami Parliament to the TT news agency.
So far, 22 Sami districts requested disaster assistance from the Sami Parliament, which is considered the highest number in seven years and the pile of applications is expected to grow.
The mild winter, with alternating snow, thaw and rain, has created deep ground frost and the impenetrable ice which makes it very hard for the reindeer to get to food, according to several media sources.
The Sami way of life faces a growing number of natural and man-made threats.
The Local reported in December that mining companies are seeking to exploit the resources of northern Sweden, leaving the Samis wondering how much longer they can continue to graze their animals.
The Samis, the only indigenous people in the EU, number roughly 80,000 people who inhabit a huge swathe of land stretching from Norway across Sweden and Finland to Russia.
December 6, 2013. Reindeer herders from obshchina (clan community) “Kanin” and representatives of Naryan-Mar slaughterhouse had meeting at the House of Folk Art, in the Nes village. The director of the slaughterhouse Nazarenko Y.M. said that reindeer meat will be exported by two helicopters MI-26 to Naryan-Mar in January 2014. In his statement the director also added that necessary creation of a slaughterhouse in the Nes village was planned long time ago.
Sleptsova Ekaterina Andreevna received an honorable mention by the President of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) for her conscientious work in agriculture, for her contribution into socio-economic development of the Sakha Republic. Ekaterina is a tent worker (chumrabotnitsa) of reindeer herding brigade No. 8, that is within the agricultural cooperative clan community “Turvaurgin”, in Nizhnekolymskij district of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).
The presidential decree “On conferring state awards of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia)” was signed on December 9, 2013.
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.
China Daily, the widest print circulation of any English-language newspaper in the China (over 500,000 copies per issue, of which a third are abroad) has just published an extensive article on the Evenki herders of Aoluguya, near Genhe, in Inner Mongolia. The article features m,any of the same people who were active participants and attendees at this years 5th World Reindeer Herders Congress which was held on their territory for the first time. The article outlines the struggles this reindeer people have faced since their relocation from the forests closer to the city of Genhe and the loss of their rifles. The Congress is mentioned in the article as is the Aoluguya Declaration. With only 20 families remaining to live with their reindeer, the future for the livelihood is painted as being rather bleak in this article.
You can read the article below, or on the China Daily website here.
The culminating document from the World Reindeer Herders’ Congress is the final Declaration. Following the completion of the 5th World Reindeer Herders Congress in China, the final Declaration from this Congress has now been released.
The Declaration is an extremely important document for reindeer herders worldwide and represents in words their unique cooperation and also gives guidance to the priorities for the Association of World Reindeer Herders over the next four years.
This time around special attention was paid in the Declaration to the challenges facing Taiga reindeer husbandry and notes that taiga reindeer herding is under a threat of disappearing in China, Mongolia and such regions of Russia as Irkutskaya Oblast, Sakhalinskaya Oblast, Buryatia Republic, Khabarovsky krai, Tuva Republic, Amurskaya Oblast and others, and that the situation is still critical and needs urgent attention. The Nomadic Herders project was highlighted as having an important role to play in this critical situation. Other key themes included communication and information, the health of reindeer herders, globalisation and collaboration, pastures and biodiversity, youth, knowledge , research and education. You can read and download the full declaration below (in English)
Helena Omma was a keynote speaker to the Arctic Futures symposium that was held in Brussels yesterday (October 16, 2013). The entire day was broadcast live on the web and we have captured her presentation and can share it with you here. Her presentation was entitled ‘Reconciling land use conflicts with reindeer herding communities with economic development in the Arctic’. Besides introducing the audience to the world of reindeer herding, she discussed the ongoing situation facing herders in northern Sweden where extensive mining activities are planned on reindeer pastures and she also touched on the EALLIN project.
You can watch the video (17 minutes, in English) below.
Norway’s Conservative leader Erna Solberg said she would form a minority cabinet with the populist Progress Party after talks with two centrist parties broke down on Monday, giving ground on oil exploration and immigration. Solberg agreed to give up plans to drill for oil in several promising Arctic areas and also agreed to tighten asylum policies to win the support of her eventual coalition partner and the outside backing of the centrist Liberals and Christian Democrats.
“We were very close to finding good solutions… This is the second best option,” said Solberg, who is set to become Norway’s second female premier after winning elections earlier this month. “This is not the end of cooperation between the four parties.”
She now faces a difficult alliance with the right wing, anti-immigration Progress Party, which will enter government for the first time. Since it was founded in 1973, and until now, mainstream parties had considered it too radical for power. “We can’t hide the fact that we are very pleased with the immigration issues here. We have got a fairly strong tightening,” said Progress leader Siv Jensen, who is likely to become finance minister when the government takes office Oct 18.
The new coalition have signalled an intention to change their policies in northern Norway, which may impact reindeer husbandry, relations with the Sami parliament and the mining industry.
Long article posted on Barents Observer today on the ongoing dispute between Swedish Sami reindeer herders and others and Beowulf Mining and their supporters. Beowulf plan to mine a remote peninsula (Kallak, see our previous post on this story here) which Sami reindeer herders have used as pasturage for generations. The article features interviews with both opponents and proponents of the mine. Kallak will cost roughly $900 million to build and generate around $2.9 billion in revenue over its 15-year lifespan, according to company records.
The costs include the construction of a tailings facility, new roads and, potentially, a railroad spur connecting the site to an existing rail line that would carry the ore to ports on the Baltic Sea and Norwegian coast, where it would be shipped to steel plants in northern Europe and used in the production of everything from cars and ships to electronics and paper clips.
Sami herders insist the new infrastructure and mining activity would block two routes used by reindeer to migrate from summer pastures in the mountains north of Kallak to winter grazing land in the forested valley south of Jokkmokk.
A short video accompanies the article which you can view below and which includes a short interview with a Sami reindeer herder, Jonas Vannar.
Very interesting post on Eye onthe Arctic and also posted on the Foreign Policy Blogs by Mia Bennet. She takes a look at what the victory of the Conservative Party might mean for northern Norway. The Conservatives, however, did not win enough seats to form a majority government. Headed by new Prime Minister Erna Solberg, they will likely ally with the populist, anti-immigrant Progress Party, which won 29 seats. The Conservatives will probably also have to work with the two small, centrist parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. VG has excellent infographics illustrating the election results.
Bennet also looks specifically at what the Conservative victory might mean for reindeer herders.
A few years ago, interesting research came out of the UK and Norway that demonstrated how reindeers’ eye sight was unique among mammals, as they literally saw in UV light. Here is a short video describing what researchers discovered
A translation of the report ‘Reindeer Husbandry and Barents 2030’ prepared by the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, in collaboration with NORUT, UNEP-GRID Arendal and others.. This report was commissioned by StatoilHydro ASA and undertaken by ICR. StatoilHydro commissioned four parallel scenario reports for the Barents Region on respectively climate change, socio-economic consequences, environmental issues and reindeer husbandry.The joint project was initiated as part of StatoilHydro’s preparations or a strategic action plan for future oil and gas developments in the High North.
You can read the report in English here and read/download the Russian translation below.
The conference ‘Optimising Production in Reindeer Husbandry’ has been announced and will take place in the University of Tromso, October 23-4. The main topics of the conference are
• Reindeer production and its natural basis – reindeer and pastures, climate
change, and impact of large predators.
• Reindeer husbandry related to social and administrative structures
• Reindeer herding facing new land use activities
The conference is being organised by the Norwegian Joint Committee for Agricultural and Food Research, Bioforsk and the Nordic Association of Agricultural Scientists. More information and registration here.
The ongoing case of mining company Beowulf’s plans to start a large iron ore mine near the town of Jokkmokk in northern Sweden, which will directly impact reindeer herders in the region has been a major news item in Sweden (The Local) and in the Sami media (NRK Sami) for the past few weeks. Now, coverage has gone international.
Major news agencies have picked up the story (AP and UPI) which has seen the story carried by the Washington Post, Fox News,ABC News and more.
“Beowulf Mining has broken all ethical rules. They have refused to talk to the Sami people, the local community and the reindeer herders as such. They have chosen to use power in order to get their way through. They have called for the Swedish police to use violence against peaceful protesters”, says Lars Anders Baer.
(Article from Barents Observer) Sami activists protesting the British company Beowulf Mines attempts to start blasting for Iron in Kallak were cleaned away by Swedish police.
“You can`t image how it feels standing there behind police road blocks with you hat in your hand, when all you want is to make sure your reindeers are safe. It is humiliating and surreal. The Swedish government has abandoned us,” says Henrik Blind to Barentsobserver. He is a Sami spokesman and local politician.
Wednesday the first explosives were detonated in Kallok where Sweden`s indigenous Sami population herd their reindeers.
Artworks made by Sami artists were bulldozed and about 50 peaceful activists were forced to disperse. 10 people were carried away by police officers.
“It made a huge impression when one of the protesters doused himself with gasoline and threatened to set himself ablaze. Our local Sami politican, Hanna Sofie Utsi, was singing (joiking) while carried away”, says Blind.
The reindeer herders were not given an opportunity to gather the animals still grazing in the area.
“It was brutal. It is impossible for me to describe how it feels in words. We have used this territory for thousands of years. The Swedish government is giving away the very basis of our existence to a foreign company”.
Stephan Dudeck is an anthropologist based at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, Finland. His current research is part of the Orhelia projet – Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic. He writes a blog that covers lots of aspects of his work – a recent posting is a report from his visit to the reindeer herders of the 7th brigade of the Kanin reindeer herding cooperative, in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. At the time of his visit the camp was situated some 16 km from the village of Karepole near the river Laka one of the tributaries of the river Kuloi. Interesting photos and insights. Read the full posting here. Also here is an earlier posting covers his visit to the tundra during the summer of last year.
Tracie Curry recently defended her Masters thesis in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, entitled Herding on Thin Ice – An Excercise in Resilience and Adaptive Strategy. Interested in learning more about the drivers of change and development in the Arctic, and the impacts that these developments were having not only on the landscape but also the people who depend on these landscapes for survival, Curry was drawn to Finnmark and reindeer herding. For her topic, Curry looked closely at the case of Hammerfest, located on Kvaløya Island in the Finnmark region of northern Norway where families of herders are currently struggling to maintain their traditions in the face of multiple development threats. In her words,
Northern Norway is bracing itself for the energy and mineral rush that is affecting the entire Arctic. Development plans, mining projects, LNG plants, offshore oil drilling plans are all swirling around the region as the rush for Arctic resources progresses. A fascinating website has been launched by Trine Hamran, a journalist, documentarist and social anthropologist who has a passion for the region. Border Stories is a venue for very different northerners to relate their stories in first person to give context to what this rush for development means for people on the ground.
When our politicians speak about resources, they speak about oil, gas and minerals. Not people. When they say we need more knowledge, they mean higher education. And when they say higher education, they mean studies relevant for the industry sector. Not studies to strengthen identity, language or critical thinking. (Borderstories)
One of those featured is Mariann Wollmann Magga, a reindeer herder and member of the Sami Parliament who lives near Kirkenes, one of the development hotspots of this newly envisioned resource region. The calving grounds of her families reindeer is an area that has been mooted as a possible site for an LNG plant.
It is one of the 20th century’s most memorable photos: the one Edmund Hillary took of Tenzing Norgay on May 29, 1953, standing at the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. You might not know that he was wearing boots made from reindeer. Tenzing obviously had learned what peoples in the Arctic have always known, that if you want warm feet, wear footwear made from reindeer. Style and fashion blogs have just alighted on these boots in the last week, because Bally, the Swiss company that in the ’40s began custom-making boots for serious mountaineers, among them the pair that Tenzing wore for his storied ascent are making reindeer boots again. In honor of the anniversary of that climb — and the fact that the old-fashioned mountaineer has become a style model in men’s fashion — Bally is issuing a new version of the boots. The sole is lighter in weight and they lace more easily. But like the originals, they are available only by order, and they are still made of reindeer fur. They may never help you get to the top of a mountain, but, at $2,495 (USD), they will certainly help you scale your credit limit.
According to Professor Lauri Oksanen of the University of Turku, grazing by reindeer keep arctic vegetation in check, thus reducing the solar heat absorption that leads to a self-reinforcing cycle of climate change.
Snow cover and mostly barren tundra reflect large portions of the sun’s rays. When darker shrubs and trees spring up in arctic areas they absorb more energy, heating up their surroundings and the earth’s atmosphere.
Researchers in Finland have now carried out a comparison between an area in Norway where reindeer are not allowed to graze in the summer, and a similar area in Finland where grazing reindeer have kept shrubs and tree from growing.
They have found that the heat radiated by the overgrown area in Norway is at a much higher level.
“The heat difference between what happens there and in the Finnish area during three spring months, March, April and May, would be enough to melt a cubic kilometre of ice. That is no small matter,” explains Professor Lauri Oksanen.
Reindeer herding is one of the cornerstones of Sami culture and Sami reindeer herding is practiced across the three Nordic countries and North West Russia. Every year, various Sami organisations send represntatives to the United Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. This year, two young members of the Sami Reindeer Herders Association of Norway were in attendence and spoke to UN Radio about the challenges facing reindeer herders in Norway today. You can listen to Berit Marie Lise Eira, leader of the organization’s youth committee and Eva Jaama in their interview with UN Radio here
When people think of reindeer and reindeer herding, they generally think of Scandinavia and Russia, and with good reason, this being where the vast majority of reindeer and herders are to be found. However, reindeer herding has been practiced in Canada since 1935, with the arrival of reindeer that were imported to Canada via Alaska from Norway during the ‘Reindeer Project‘ in the Mackenzie Delta where it is still practiced today by the descendents of those early reindeer herding pioneers.
Canadian Reindeer, the company that operates reindeer herding there today is looking for (in the words of Lloyd Binder) a ‘Chief Herder-Trainee’ to learn the country and take over a herd of 4,000 during a 3-year period. Contact email@example.com.
Across the world of reindeer husbandry, spring is a time for movement as people and reindeer move to the spring-summer and summer pastures. In Finnmark, Norway’s largest area of reindeer husbandry this ancient pattern is underway over the last few weeks. Thanks to digital technology, lots of herders are now making their own videos of this annual journey, that often are though some of the finest landscapes in the Arctic.
One such example is this one by a young woman of a reindeer herding family taking part in their spring migration from the Kautokeino area to the island of Arnøya, near Skjervøy on the coast. Anne Katja Gaup took this video during the spring’s migration of Ardni siida to the coast and we really like it. See below:
Not a good time to be a reindeer in South Georgia – the completion of the first phase of the eradication of introduced Reindeer Rangifer tarandus from the Southern Ocean island of South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* has been announced.
The first phase of the project saw the removal of over 1900 animals in January and February 2013 from the Busen Peninsula, one of two areas isolated by glaciers on the island that have been inhabited by Reindeer.
Norwegian whalers introduced Reindeer to the island in the early 1900s. Reindeer numbers increased after shore-based whaling ceased in the mid-1960s and they have had a devastating impact on the island’s vegetation, with knock-on effects on native bird species, including the ACAP-listed burrowing White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis.
Norwegian expertise, including from indigenous Sami herders and expert marksmen, has been utilized in their eradication. In central areas Sami herded the Reindeer into a fenced corral where they were killed under veterinary supervision and their meat recovered to help cover eradication costs. In the outlying areas where herding was not considered feasible, animals were shot.
Since 1994 the number of reindeer on Svalbard is nearly doubled. At the same time the average summer temperature has gone up two degrees.
“It is astonishing that only two more degrees has led to such an increase of the stock” says Professor Erik Ropstad of the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, who has been studying reindeer on Svalbard for nearly 20 years. The rise in temperature has led to more vegetation andplenty of food for the animals, he says to Svalbardposten.
The last winter was abnormally warm with temperatures 11°C above the normal from January to the end of March. The main settlement Longyearbyen had 90 millimeters of precipitation in January-March, nearly twice the normal. Ny-Ålesund, the world’s northernmost public settlement, had 97 percent of the normal annual precipitation during the first 80 days of the year.
Svalbard reindeer is the smallest subspecies of reindeer and is exclusive to this area. Reindeer were hunted very heavily on Svalbard from 1860 to 1925, and the population was markedly reduced. The hunt was stopped except for scientific sampling between 1925 and 1983. This period of protection resulted in recovery in numerical terms as well as the surviving reindeer spreading to occupy their former range. From 1983 onwards, controlled hunting of Svalbard reindeer has been permitted, the Norwegian Polar Institute’s web site reads. Source: Barents Observer
Russia will reach the semifinals of Euro 2012. That’s according to Kharuk, a fortune telling reindeer from the country’s northern region of Komi.
Inspired by the fame of Paul the Octopus, arctic Russians decided to unveil an oracle of their own just a few days ahead of the Euro 2012 kick-off.
“Animals-foretellers have recently become a trend. They are everywhere. So we decided to find our own one. The reindeer is a symbol of the Komi region. Besides, Kharuk has already successfully forecast the future once,” says Yury Shibanev, program director of Avtoradio which is backing the campaign.
As always, the organizers used the animal’s feeding behavior. Native born Kharuk was offered to choose a bowl among the three identical ones containing its favorite meal – apples and carrots. With no sign of hesitation the reindeer chose the one in the middle. When the organizers slit open an envelope lying under the bowl the title read – semifinal.