Reindeer husbandry in China is limited to a small region in the North East of the country, between 50o and 53o North. There are currently 234 Evenki engaged in reindeer husbandry across 20 families herding approximately 1000 reindeer.
These reindeer herding Evenki are the surviving members of what had been a larger Evenki population of hunters that moved freely across the Russian-Chinese border. When Russian-Chinese border hostilities erupted in the 1960’s, they happened to be in Chinese territory. Intent on curtailing their free roaming across the border, the Chinese authorities relocated them farther inland, first in Alonson, then Manqui and finally building the settlement of Alougoya.
Reindeer were collectivized in 1967 – the state purchased all reindeer from the herders and provided a salary to them for their labour, though reindeer, remained under the care of their previous owners and herders. Their herding is consistent with other south-Siberian reindeer-herding peoples: small numbers of clan-owned reindeer were milked and used for transport. The reindeer were highly prized and not slaughtered for meat.
Improving herd health and herd diversity and the economic situation of herders are the main priorities for the livelihood in this region. Soft antler production for the Asian pharmaceuticals market is the main cash crop and there are efforts underway to develop small scale tourist activities in the clans closest to the largest city of the region, Genhe.
The next World Reindeer Herders Congress (a gathering of reindeer herders from around the world which was held in Kautokeino, Norway in 2010) will be held in Genhe China in 2014.