Reindeer

Reindeer are helping to slow down climate change by grazing on Arctic tundra

January 4, 2017 • Alena Gerasimova

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).

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More than 300 Reindeer Killed by Lightning

August 29, 2016 • Alena Gerasimova

VmzHAlzSmYmjtpU650P44giS1QqvJV6e_g7o0emsWS9QThe 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). 

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From the Archive – Santa, Reindeer and Flight

December 17, 2014 • Philip Burgess

Everyflying reindeer 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?

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Dogs attacking and killing reindeer

August 20, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

dogs attacking reindeerSad news came from Norway where few young men witnessed a terrible scene – two dogs were killing a reindeer.

The gruesome pictures which were taken outside Tromso by few kayakers this weekend, show two dogs that have chased reindeer into water, attack and killed it.

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Yamal Reindeer Herders Fight Against Poachers

July 16, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

Nenets reindeer herderIndigenous peoples of Yamal complain about numerous death of reindeer this winter. The reason of this death loss is not only very severe winter but also poaching. 

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Reindeer die offs continue in Yamal region (Russia)

March 19, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova

Yamal reindeer loss 2014Wednesday, 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.  

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Upcoming Conference: Optimising Production in Reindeer Husbandry

September 5, 2013 • Philip Burgess

Reindeer production conferenceThe 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.

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Eradication of Reindeer From South Georgia Begins

April 19, 2013 • Philip Burgess

Reindeer round-up South Georgia Samantha Crimmin sNot 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.

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Another Animal Welfare Organisation Targets Reindeer Herders

December 9, 2010 • Philip Burgess

The World Society for the Protection of Animals has added their voice to what seems certain to to become an annual right of passage – animals rights organisations using the Christmas season to raise their own profile with media friendly releases about the ‘mistreatreatment’ of reindeer by reindeer herders. Another organisation, VIVA, launched a similar campaign a few weeks ago, noted here on the Reindeer Blog.  WSPA have launched their campaign with a website and a video featuring video footage of a reindeer roundup in the corral, earmarking, antler cutting and the killing of reindeer with the curved knife.

WSPA urge people to write a protest letter to the Nordic Council of Ministers, highlighting material such as,

Despite legislation to the contrary, the footage obtained by WSPA shows how the reindeer are forced through a process that prohibits their natural behaviour in several ways. The reindeer, used to roaming free in the wilderness with no prior contact with human beings, panic visibly and attempt to flee as they are herded in massive groups of well over a hundred reindeer, by groups of men, some on snowmobiles.

The animals’ distress continues to increase as they are forced into corrals, have their ears mutilated and left to bleed, and in more than one instance visible on film, get mishandled as they desperately resist being loaded onto trucks for transport to slaughterhouses.

See their protest site and video here.

If there is a lesson in this for reindeer herders, it might be to be careful of visitors to reindeer round ups bearing cameras…

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Sleep With Reindeer for €1,000 / Night

November 9, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Carsten Höller, Soma, 2010 Installationsansicht Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin, 2010 © VG Bild-Kunst 2010 / Carsten Höller, Foto: Attilio Maranzano

A bizarre exhibition by the renowned artist Carsten Höller has just opened at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary art museum. “Soma” also offers the chance for a limited number of guests to overnight in a bed suspended above a collection of animals that includes reindeer, canaries and mice for €1,000. In total there are 12 reindeer in the exhibit.

What’s the reindeer connection? Höller has based his exhibit on elements of a verse in the ancient Hindu text, the Rigveda, which reads: “We have drunk of the soma; we have become immortal, we have seen the light; we have found the Gods.”

In the 20th century, philologists, ethnologists and botanists have tried to identify the main ingredient of the enlightening beverage, the ingredients of which were lost over the years, the museum said in a statement.

But in 1968, American banker and hobby mycologist Gordon R. Wasson made the highly-disputed suggestion that the red and white poisonous fly Amanita mushroom may have been the ingredient, and that it may have been absorbed through the urine of reindeer, which eat the plant as part of their natural diet.

Incidentally, that mushroom has a much older connection with reindeer and story being perhaps the connection between the earliest representations of flying reindeer well south of their current range in modern day Mongolia. You can read that story on the Reindeer Portal

Source: The Local See a Video from the show here (in German)

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Mining and Reindeer Can Mix According to Senior Politician, Norway

April 13, 2010 • Philip Burgess

A multi stakeholder seminar was held in the Kautokeino, Norway yesterday which focussed on the issue of mining in Finnmark, an issue of some controversy in the region since the passing of the Finnmark Act which devolved desicion making powers over multiple resource issues to the region of Finnmark. The seminar was attended by the leader of the EALÁT project and several EALÁT partners including the leader of the Sami Reindeer Herders Association of Norway. Heavyweight politicians were present, including the Parliamentary leader of the governing Labour Party Helga Pedersen and the leader of the mining company Store Norske Gull, who have been active in staking claims  most particularly in the Karasjok region. Pedersen was unequivocal in her support for the future development of mining in the the region, which reindeer herders fear will mean the further erosion of winter pastures that are already under duress. Pedersen told NRK Sami Radio

Both Finnmark society and the Sami community is entirely dependent on new activity. If one is to preserve the culture and language we are going to have to have new jobs for the youth in the Sami villages. You can not save the Sami culture simply by having Sami kindergarten at Tøyen in Oslo and courses in communities with cafe lattes, it has to happen here,

You can read the rest of the article here on the Reindeer Portal

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Reindeer Ferry Warming Up in Norway

April 8, 2010 • Philip Burgess

In northern Norway, summer pastures for reindeer are often located on the coastal islands of Finnmark and Troms counties. Traditionally, reindeer swim across from the mainland to the islands but with increasing pasture losses and migratory route fragmentation, since the early 1970s, many herders use a reindeer ‘ferry’ to transport reindeer over distances that have now become too far to swim (reindeer are exellent swimmers).

Reindeer ferry season is about to begin this year on April 20th from Balnes in Balsfjord and some 15,000 reindeer from 20 reindeer herding districts will make the ferry ride by May 9th.  National Geographic featured a short article on this unusual form of transport in collaboration with the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry which you can read here.

Source: LMD

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Fences for Kola Reindeer Husbandry?

April 7, 2010 • Philip Burgess

In a long interview with the newspaper Vedomosti, the  new (ish) Kola Peninsula regional Governor Dmitry Dmitriyenko said that his administration plans to establish 100-200 km wide zones for reindeer herds. This will help raise productivity, the governor argues.

Today, reindeer herds migrate over major parts of the peninsula and unlike reindeer husbandry in the neighbouring Finland, fences are not widely used there.

Governor Dmitriyenko says the changing climate makes it increasingly difficult to gather the herds at slaughter time because the rivers now freeze later than before.

Although this was a small piece in a lengthy article, were such a plan to be carried out, it would dramatically alter reindeer husbandry in the region. Interestingly, the Governor identifies climate change as being the reason for the introduction of fencing while experience from Scandinavia show that fencing is more related to herd control by the authorities and reduced flexibility for herders. Fencing also has a dramatic impact on the landscape and breaks up traditional migratory patterns.

Source: Ведомости

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Reindeer body clock switched off (BBC)

March 16, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Reindeer have no internal body clock, according to scientists.

Researchers found that the animals are missing a “circadian clock” that influences processes including the sleep-wake cycle and metabolism.

This enables them to better cope with the extreme Arctic seasons of polar day, when the sun stays up all day, and polar night, when it does not rise.

The team from the universities of Manchester and Tromso report their study in Current Biology journal.

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Mysterious Collapse of Reindeer Blamed on Freak Storms (WIRED)

January 18, 2010 • Philip Burgess

On a remote island in the Bering Strait during World War II, a tiny band of Americans ran a radar station. Twenty-nine reindeer were placed on St. Matthew Island with them, to be eaten in case of emergency.

The emergency never came, and population biologist Dave Klein counted 6,000 reindeer on the island by 1963, spread out over just 50 square miles of land. Then, sailors started to report seeing bleached reindeer skeletons dotting the island. When Klein returned in 1966, there were only 42 left and no males with the ability to reproduce. The herd dwindled and eventually went extinct.

There this strange mystery sat for decades until extreme weather specialist John Walsh of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and University of Nebraska climatologist Martha Shulski teamed up with the now 80-year-old Klein to solve it. They announced their findings this week here at the American Geophysical Union meeting.

It turns out that a series of winter cyclones comparable in intensity to a Category 2 hurricane buffeted the island in early 1964. Overpopulated and isolated as the island was, the reindeer herd proved vulnerable to the extreme storms, which brought much heavier than normal snowfall, stronger winds, and lower temperatures.

The question that remains is why these extra-strong storms occurred. For reasons that still aren’t understood, a series of weather systems sweeping across the Pacific from Japan intensified just east of the dateline and then headed north.

Over that winter, the closest weather station to reindeer’s home, St. Paul Island, got more than six and a half feet more snow than normal. The barometric pressure differential between the low of the strongest storm and the regional high in Siberia was the highest in the 60-year period for which measurements are available. The reindeer were no match.

Source: WIRED

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Oil and Gas Not the Only Export from Yamal… Also Reindeer Meat

November 24, 2009 • Philip Burgess

There was an interesting interview in RusBusiness News recently with Aleksandr Mazharov, the Director of the Department for International and Interregional Relations of YaNAO (Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug). Obviously, the vast majority and indeed focus of the Yamal economy is its oil and gas reserves.  95.5% of the regions exported products were oil and gas in 2008. However, there has recently emerged a new export – reindeer meat and hides – and Mazharov proudly points out that the region is the only one in Russia exporting these products to the European Union.

Europe has not opened its borders to us straight away. For a number of years we drafted the necessary documents, underwent lengthy approval and control procedures, and only then the EU issued a certificate allowing the supplies of products of the northern reindeer herding to European countries. We have to take into account the fact that the only territory certified is the Yamal district where the main slaughter and meat processing enterprise – the Yamal Reindeer Company – is based.

Despite the fact that the exported products only take a rather narrow niche the competition we have to fight is very serious. There are Finnish producers working in the same segment, and, as strange as it may sound, companies in New Zealand.

Mazharov went on to highlight the quality of their reindeer products, the health benefits of reindeer meat, the plans to increase the sale of soft antlers for the Chinese market,  and the partnerships with the Finnish company Kometos Oy.

In a near future the first train of the Finnish deer slaughter line will be commissioned in the Yamal village Antipayuta (Tazovskiy district). Similar enterprises should appear in the village of Seyakha (Yamal district) and the trading post Yuribey (Tazovskiy district). In the future the trading post Payuta should acquire its own slaughter and freezer complex.

This would represent a significant increase in slaughterhouse capacity as currently there is only one slaughterhouse in the region capable of slaughtering reindeer meat to EU standards and packaging, based in Yar-Sale. You can read the full interview here, or read below

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Global warming a growing threat to Arctic reindeer (AFP)

November 17, 2009 • Philip Burgess

by Catherine Marciano.  JARFJORD, Norway (AFP) – On Norway’s border with Russia, the consequences of climate change are affecting the reindeer population as rising temperatures hit food stocks and industry growth eats into vital grazing land.

“Over the past three years, I’ve had to give some hay to my 800 reindeer during the coldest months. It’s more expensive and it gives me more work,” said Jan Egil Trasti, a reindeer herder from the native Sami people.

The reason: the lichen his animals graze on has become tougher to find as winter temperatures rise. The snow thaws, and along with rain, then freezes anew — covering the ground in layers impervious to all but the most tenacious reindeer.

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Could Car Navigation Systems Prevent Reindeer Road Deaths?

September 2, 2009 • Philip Burgess

(Source: Helsingin Sanomat) In-car satellite navigation systems will start issuing warnings of possible reindeer on Finnish highways. The experiment set to start this autumn relates to a Ministry of Transport and Communications project, the aim of which is to cut the number of reindeer accidents in half.
Reindeer may not have the bulk and potentially lethal threat of elk, but they do pose a considerable problem on Finnish roads. Annually around 4,000 collisions with reindeer take place on the highways of the north.  Between January and July this year, around 400 road accidents involving a reindeer have been officially reported.

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Reindeer herds in global decline (BBC)

June 11, 2009 • Philip Burgess

Reindeer and caribou numbers worldwide: red denotes herds in decline, green indicates those on the increase and dark grey means no data is available. Reindeer and caribou do not range in areas coloured light grey

Reindeer and caribou numbers are plummeting around the world.

The first global review of their status has found that populations are declining almost everywhere they live, from Alaska and Canada, to Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia.

The iconic deer is vital to indigenous peoples around the circumpolar north.

Yet it is increasingly difficult for the deer to survive in a world warmed by climate change and altered by industrial development, say scientists.

Reindeer and caribou belong to the same species, Rangifer tarandus.

Caribou live in Canada, Alaska and Greenland; while reindeer live in Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Worldwide, seven sub-species are recognised. Each are genetically, morphologically and behaviourally a little different, though capable of interbreeding with one another.

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Happy Miessemánnu / Reindeer Calf Month

May 4, 2009 • Philip Burgess

(Pic: Sven Skaltje) This time of year is marked by the birth of reindeer calves around the world of reindeer husbandry. In the North Sámi language, the month of May is called Miessemánnu – which  translates into English as Reindeer Calf Month. This speaks the cycle of  the Sámi year and how intertwined it is into everyday Sámi life. 

It is not the only month that reflects the link between Sámi, their language and their reindeer. Borgemánnu (Augustand Golggotmánnu (Octoberare also months of the year that are connected to the behaviour of reindeer.

In Norway, where migration routes to the coast, are still followed, herds are often seperated and the calves are born en route, with herders keeping a watchful eye for predadators along the way, as calves are very vulnerable to attacks by wolverines and eagles at this time. 

Happy Miessemánnu from the Reindeer Blog!

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Chair of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Visits Reindeer Herd

March 24, 2009 • Philip Burgess

(Pic: Dan Robert Larsen / NRK) Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, The Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues visited a reindeer herd in the company of a reindeer herder from Karasjok, Johan Mathis Eira, among others. She compared the journey to the herd as like travelling in a fridge! Tauli-Corpus has been in Karasjok this week visiting the Sami Parliament, taking part in a seminar that included topics such as rights and climate change and was  organised by the Sami parliament and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When informed that she was travelling in an area that was populated by the ferocious predator, wolverine, she expressed concern but was glad to hear that they are afraid of people. The weather was overcast and windy. Said Eira, 

It is in such weather that wolverine like the best.Then it can sneak in on the reindeer herd and their tracks are hidden (by the wind). Then it is only the crows the day after that tell you what has happened and that  Jerven have some catch…

In our siida  predators are a problem. Especially wolverine and lynx that both frighten and kill reindeer. We do not need to be long gone from the herd before these predators turn up

You can watch a video clip of her trip here on NRK Sami Radio

Source: NRK Sami Radio

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President Medvedev Given a Reindeer

January 16, 2009 • Philip Burgess

(Source: Russia Today) A large Evenki family, recently awarded with the ‘Parents’ Glory’ award on Tuesday in the Kremlin, decided to present Dmitry Medvedev with one of their reindeer. The Maksimov family’s decision was announced by the representative of the committee on family and childhood affairs for the President of Yakutia.

The Maksimovs, who live in the reindeer-breeding village of Iengra in the south of Yakutia, have handed to the President presents from the craftswomen of the village, and a symbol of power – a type of board with carved symbols.

However the most important gift waits for Medvedev in Maksimovs’s native village. It’s a reindeer, a symbol of happiness and prosperity of the Evenki people. The animal will live in the Yakutian village until its owner arrives personally to take it away.

There are 15 people in the Maksimov family. The head of the family, hunter Vladimir, his wife Olga, their five children, three grandsons, two nephews and three daughters-in-law.

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Shoot a Reindeer for $375 in Canada

December 30, 2008 • Philip Burgess

The Reindeer Blog reported some months ago that Canada’s only reindeer herd (in Inuvik, in the North West Territories, managed by the Kunnek Resurces Development Corporation) was missing. They obviously have been found, but to earn extra money, their manager, Lloyd Binder (a descendant of the Reindeer Project from the early 20th Century that brought Sami reindeer herders from Norway to Alaska and subsequently Canada) is offering hunters the chance to shoot their reindeer for $375, to earn some extra money from the herd.

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Adopt-a-Reindeer…..

December 22, 2008 • Philip Burgess

With the global economic crisis that is hitting peoples on the margins the hardest, the Itgel Foundation, based in the US, which works with Tsataan reindeer herders in Mongolia, has launched a seasonally minded Adopt a Reindeer appeal. They intend to use funds raised to support their ongoing work with reindeer husbandry in Mongolia and other programmes in the region, where they have been at work for several years. Taiga reindeer husbandry faces a number of unique challenges, among them loss of pastures, lack of support, shortage of verterinary care and an uncertain future. Download the details here:  Adopt a Reindeer Appeal

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Flying Reindeer and Santa Claus: Fact, Fiction and Myth

December 15, 2008 • Philip Burgess

flying reindeerThose of who work with reindeer as herders, researchers, and people in areas of  reindeer husbandry obviously think about reindeer much of the time. As a  species they are the cornerstone of life in the Arctic and nearly 30 different  indigenous peoples in the northern hemisphere. Not so for the rest of the world whose interest in reindeer is very seasonal. At Christmas time, global interest in reindeer soars (see the Google trends graph below). Reindeer and people have an ancient attachment. There are archaeological remains and cave paintings in France and Spain from the end  of the Pleistocene, 11000-17000 years ago that have led some to call that period the  ‘Age of the reindeer’. In the North, the age of the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)  continues much as it has done for thousands of years. Reindeer are not endangered –  there are as many as 3 million wild and 2 million domesticated reindeer around the North, with most being in northern Russia. There are also large herds of wild reindeer /  caribou both in Russia and North America. There are even reindeer on Greenland, Iceland and the isolated islands of Svalbard. Over time reindeer have shown  themselves to be phenomenally adaptable and uniquely designed to handle extreme fluctuation in temperature.

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Killing of Reindeer in Norwegian Supreme Court / Avlivning av ren i norsk domstol

December 10, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Samerna borde ha samma rätt att avliva djur som judar och muslimerna. Det menade advokaten Trond Biti när samisk tradition sattes mot norsk lag igår i högsta domstolen i Norge. Trond Biti menar att muslimer och judar avlivar djuren med knivstick utan att bedöva (SR.se).

Sami should have the same right to kill animals as do Jews and Muslims. So said lawyer Trond Biti when the case of Sami traditions came up against Norwegian law yesterday in the Supreme Court of Norway.

“They have every right to practice their traditions and so should the Sami people” said Biti.

Trond Biti is defending a herder  for killing a  reindeer with a knife stabbed into the heart, although it is contrary to the Norwegian Animal Welfare Act. Norwegian law has primacy over Sami customs, said the First State lawyer Lars Fausa for Troms and Finnmark, after the reindeer owner was fined 5,000 NOK (550 EURO) for having slaughtered reindeer in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. (NRK, SR.se).

More on this story here on an earlier story on the Reindeer Blog

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Reindeer Deaths on the Roads – Blame Salt? (Norway)

November 26, 2008 • Philip Burgess

At this time of year, large migrations of reindeer are underway in northern Norway. This means the crossing of roads, several of which are busy and driving conditions at this time of year are challenging. There have been several accounts of reindeer being hit by cars, which is nearly always fatal to reindeer.

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GPS Transmitters on Reindeer

November 17, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Pic and story Ságat) By using GPS transmitters on reindeer in the Skæhkere reindeer husbandry district in southern Norway, reindeer herders hope that in time it will be easier to document their large losses caused by predators. Herders in this district in Trøndelag spend a great deal of time looking for carcasses for documentation purposes.

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Reindeer Husbandry and Agriculture – A Complex Cocktail

November 11, 2008 • Philip Burgess

The ongoing discussion between reindeer herders and farmers in the Alta region specifically (but elsewhere too) is again in the media. A former state secretary with responsibility for reindeer husbandry

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Chukotka Reindeer to Kamchatka

October 27, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Vostok Media reported that reindeer from Chukotka were to be brought to Kamchatka to revive reindeer husbandry there which has been in difficulty since the 1990’s..

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKIY. 22 October. VOSTOK-MEDIA. Parliament of Kamchatskiy krai is going to increase population of reindeer which is now in bad condition.
As Minister of Agriculture and Trade of Kamchatskiy Krai Andrey Sizintsev says Kamchatka will receive 1 500 north reindeer from Chukotka in a month. Animals are bought for increasing population in Kamchatka. In the beginning of November reindeer will be directed to the borders of two regions where reindeer herdsmen from Kamchatka will take them to their herds.
Money issue is not being announced for now as it is not a completed matter.
Parliament of Kamchatka is going to prolong cooperation with Chukotka.

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Reindeer Mix Up

October 16, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Pic – Johan Mathis Gaup) NRK has been full of a story this week that is just south of Kautokeino / Guovdageaidnu. This is the time of year that reindeer herds are migrated back to the interior and their winter pastures, as the temperature drops. Two large herds have become mixed together – in total about 23,000 animals that belong to the reindeer herding districts Orda and Lákkonjárga (30/31) in the  Guovdajohtolat (Middle Zone). The Reinpolitiet (established in 1950, a branch of the Norwegian Police that deals with reindeer husbandry) have been called in, though there is disagreement as to who called them, and they are now observing the situation. Concerns have been raised as to police presence, the impact on pastures of so many animals in one place and as to how this could have happened in the first place. 

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“Viagra has Destroyed Everything”..(and other News from Finnmark)

October 7, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Reindeer Antlers : Sales Drooping

So said reindeer herder Johan Mikkel Haetta as he complained that the bottom has fallen out of the reindeer antler market. Used in the large market in the Far East for aphrodisiacs, reindeer antlers have been an important supplemental source of income for reindeer herders (especially in parts of Russia). The availability of synthetic aphrodisiacs such as Viagra has had a major negative impact on the market.

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Sarah Palin & Vladimir Etylin – The Chukotka Connection

October 4, 2008 • Philip Burgess
Vladimir Etylin, Sarah Palin, and a dead caribou…

While much has been made of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s lack of international experience (especially after a poor performance in an interview with CBS’s Katie Couric), it should be noted that what experience she does have, has a reindeer herding connection…

One of the few politicians she actually has met from Russia (Putin’s rearing head notwithstanding), is former Vice Governor of Chukotka, the renowned Vladimir Etylin. Not only was Etylin born into a reindeer herding family on the tundra in Chukotka, he is a trained scientist, politician, and lifetime advocate for the Chukchi people. He is also on the board of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR), the publishers of this blog! Mr. Etylin is currently in the field in Chukotka. When he returns to phone contact we will endeavour to follow this story up! The picture above shows Vladimir Etylin presenting earlier this year at the EALAT Information seminar in Anadyr, Chukotka pointing out the best known dead caribou for many years, lying beside Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

According to the Seattle Times, Etylin invited Governor Palin to Chukotka (in 2007), an offer she has yet to take him up on,

“She seemed very modern and forward-thinking and was open to the idea,”
Yetylin said in a telephone interview. “Absolutely, I think she should
come.” (Seattle Times)

Watch this space….

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Updated – Wind Farms – Enormous Increase in Interest in Norway

May 16, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Pic Barents Observer) With soaring energy prices, alternative energy from domestic sources are increasingly of interest to nation states. Espcially if they are touted as being ‘green’ (low CO2 emissions) and are promoted by state subsidy programs.

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Reindeer hit with Eye disease slaughtered (Sweden)

May 5, 2008 • Philip Burgess

According to a story in NRK Sami Radio, 400 reindeer in the Pitea region in Sweden have had to be slaughtered as a result of a mysterious eye disease that has rampaged through a herd which leave afflicted reindeer completely blind.

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Russian reindeer conquer Western markets (Yamal Peninsula)

April 28, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Picture / story Russia Today 21042008)Reindeer breeding accounts for 90% of the agriculture in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District in northern Russia. The industry’s export markets include Germany, Italy, Greece and Latvia. But producers are facing logistics problems trying to expand.Reindeer have been the main source of income for the Nenets people for centuries. There are 600,000 head of the animals in the region.

But Russia has yet to develop the domestic market for reindeer meat. Today, all the produce is exported. 

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“We are being pushed out” – Nils Henrik Sara on Pressures on Reindeer Husbandry

February 18, 2008 • Philip Burgess

New hydropower projects, windmill parks and the construction of new houses and cabin put increasing pressure on the reindeer herders in Norway. The industry might vanish by year 2050 should the developments continue, a representative of the reindeer herders says.It is not climate changes, nor the high number of reindeers or the increasing motorized traffic which pose the biggest threat against the Norwegian reindeer herders. It is rather the big number of cabins built in the pasture areas, as well as the planned hydropower and wind power projects, head of the Norwegian Association of Reindeer Herders, Nils Henrik Sara, says to newspaper Aftenposten.

-We are being pushed out […] Our future looks gloomy and we do not have the necessary dialogue with the authorities, Mr Sara says.

He is supported by researcher Christian Nellemann from the United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP), who says that the reindeer herding industry might disappear by 2050 should the current development continue.

–The only thing, which can save the Sàmi reindeer culture is state intervention and protection of the necessary land areas, he adds.

Lawyer Geir Haugen says to Aftenposten that Norway is committed by the ILO Convention on protection of indigenous peoples’ culture and industry and that the current development in the country therefore can be seen as a violation of international law.

Only this year about 1000 new cabins are planned built in northern Norway, of which half have got special permissions. In addition come 25 planned hydro power projects, 10-12 wind power projects, as well as mining projects.

Original Story in Barents Observer and Aftenposten 

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