Track Icelandic Reindeer Online!

October 28, 2010 • Philip BurgessBlog

(Souece – Iceland Review, mbl.is) It is now possible to monitor the movements of reindeer on the website of the East Iceland Nature Center (NA). GPS monitors have been placed on 12 females for research purposes, which transmit their location on a daily basis.

“A new world has opened up to us: how the animals behave, what land they use and where they go,” Skarphédinn G. Thórisson, a NA employee and the project’s leader, told mbl.is.

The project, which was launched in 2008, is Thórisson’s Master’s thesis from the Agricultural University of Iceland (AUI) in Hvanneyri.

In 2009, NA and AUI received a grant from Rannís, the Icelandic Center for Research, to purchase 15 GPS monitors and 12 thereof were placed on selected animals in the beginning of 2009.

The information will be used to organize the harnessing of the reindeer stock, not only regarding how many animals can be shot and where, but also regarding how landowners should be benefitted.

The 12 females carrying GPS monitors are all part of the so-called Snaefell herd, which roams the eastern highland off Fljótsdalur valley, and the Álftafjördur herd, which stays around the eponymous fjord and near-lying areas.

However, most of the GPS monitors have since gone silent as the battery only lasts for a limited time. “Today four females transmit daily,” Thórisson said, adding that he hopes the silent monitors will continue to register information which can be uploaded to a computer after they have been recovered.

The project’s purpose is also to monitor how reindeer are influenced by human intervention, such as the presence of power plants. Landsvirkjun, the national power company, pays part of the research cost. The project concludes in 2012.

On na.is, visitors can click on the names of the reindeer that are being monitored and follow their movements (see “Hreindýr med GPS” in the right column and click on “Ána”, for example).