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Scientists recommend ban on reindeer hunting in Taymyr

Scientists are sounding the alarm: if no action is taken, the Taimyr Peninsula’s wild reindeer population could disappear.

fragment plakatist, põhjapõdrad loojangu taustal
Fragment plakatist. Põhjapõdrad loojaku taustal.

These are the conclusions of specialists from the Krasnoyarsk Research Centre of the Arctic Research Institute. Reindeer numbers are steadily declining and will reach a point in the coming years where they are unlikely to recover on their own.

In the 1990s, up to a million wild reindeer lived in Taymyr, and in the last 20 years their numbers have declined fourfold. The last survey was carried out in 2021, when about 240,000 individuals were counted on the peninsula. However, their numbers have continued to decline over the same period.

‘Our survey gave a critical number for the Taymyr reindeer population of 88,800. According to the data-based forecast for the near future, the number of animals will be only 107,000 this year and 70,000 in 2025. Even if the population does not disappear completely, it will lose its commercial status because it will not be able to compensate for natural losses on its own,’ explained Anatoly Shapkin, one of the co-authors of the study.

The researchers believe that the annual reindeer hunting quota needs to be revised in order to preserve wild reindeer on the Taymyr Peninsula. It currently stands at 40,000 animals, but these standards were introduced 20 years ago, when the population size and recovery capacity were many times greater. However, poaching levels can also be twice as high as official levels, according to the expert.

In addition to the obvious overhunting, the decline of reindeer in the Taymyr Peninsula is due to climate change: the Taymyr rivers have begun to open up earlier and earlier and newborn calves are unable to cross the waterways. According to the 2021 survey, 14% of the herds were calves, yet around 30% is considered normal.

Ideally, however, the optimum number of reindeer on the Taymyr Peninsula could be as high as 700-800,000, experts say. Such a number would allow the population to reproduce independently and provide an opportunity for organised commercial reindeer hunting.

However, given the current situation, the scientists proposed a ban on reindeer hunting for three years, leaving only a quota for indigenous peoples.

Wild reindeer are the symbol of Taymyr and the natural heritage of all of Russia, and their disappearance will affect both the economy and culture of the region, have a negative impact on indigenous peoples and could lead to the degradation of the entire ecosystem, according to Pavel Kochkarev, director of the Central Siberian Nature Reserve.