80,000 reindeer in danger of starvation in Arctic Russia

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Herders in the Yamal Peninsula despair as thick layers of ice prevent their animals from getting access to the indispensable lichen. Locals in the far northern Russian region believe between 60,000-80,000 animals might have died of starvation over the past winter months.

reindeer starvation russia
Reindeer starvation in Russia. Picture: Atle Staalesen / BO

Reindeer normally manage to dig through the snow to access its favorite food, the lichen, but this year the ground is covered by unbreakable ice.

And it is thick! Up to three centimeters (1.2 inches).

The reindeer are not able to get food, and the weak animals quickly die while the remaining parts of the herds lose their strength,said local herder and politician Eiko Serotetto.

If this continues, 300 families in the Seyakha village will be completely without livestock — all animals will die,” Serotetto continued.

Several herders believe the expansive oil and gas industry is to blame for the situation. Through the whole winter, icebreakers have crisscrossed the Gulf of Ob as part of the development of new major industrial projects in the region. Among them is the Arctic LNG 2, the major natural gas project currently under development on the eastern shore of the Ob.

On the one hand, herders argue that the open waters generate steam that drifts over the tundra and subsequently crystalizes on the snow.

A rescue operation is now underway in Yamal. The situation is believed to be the worst in the Seyakha area west in the peninsula. But officials are scared it could spread to the whole region.

A similar situation was reportedly experienced in 2014 in the region. Last year in Norway, a major rescue operation took place to rescue more than 160,000 reindeer that risked starvation.

Well, over the last few weeks several vicious storm / blizzards (Dagestan, Siberia, Norilsk, from US to northern Russia) engulfed the northern parts of Russia… Maybe this may be one of the cause behind this freezing liquen and the probable reindeer mass die-off… TBO

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