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Reindeer fear: world’s largest herd is shrinking

Reindeer fear: world’s largest herd is shrinking
(Image: Elen Schurova under a CC licence)

13 December 2016

The world’s largest herd of reindeer resides on the Taimyr Peninsula in the northernmost part of Russia – but rising temperatures are causing the group to dwindle rapidly, scientists warn.

According to research presented by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the herd has shrunk by 40% since 2000, falling from 1 million at the start of the 21st century to 600,000 in 2016. The principal causes for this reduction in population are increasing temperatures and human activity, which have led the reindeer to alter their annual migration patterns.

“We know in the last two decades that we have had an increase in temperatures of about 1.5C overall. And that definitely impacts migration patterns,” explains Professor Andrey Petrov, who heads up the Arctic Centre at the University of Northern Iowa, citing the herd’s attempt to get away from the rapidly increasing number of mosquitoes, who are thriving in the warmer weather. In addition, Prof. Petrov notes that the reindeer are moving east to avoid human activity in an increasingly industrialised region, as well as north and to higher elevations.

As a result, the reindeer have to migrate further between winter and summer.

“They now have to travel much longer distances to reach those areas with their newborn calves, and that means there is an increase in calf mortality,” Prof. Petrov affirms, also stressing the importance of the reindeer for the local human population, providing the basis of the subsistence economy.

Source: BBC News