Humans: The Biggest Threat to the Reindeer’s Way of Life

Reindeer are critical to the way of life of many peoples in the far North. And while the reindeer is well adapted to that area’s harsh winter climate, it has difficulty enduring heat. The animals can forage deep under the snow for food, their thick winter fur allows them to survive through some of the lowest temperatures on the planet and they’re able to cross wide rivers. Despite this, the reindeer’s ranks have been thinning in northern Russia, which is why they’ve come to be regarded as an endangered species.

Not so long ago the lives of many Northern peoples directly depended on these animals. They were hunted for food and domesticated as well. Meat, organs and even blood were a highly valued source of nutrition, as well as the reindeer’s milk. Often the prosperity of a family was measured by the number of reindeer they owned.

Although wolves are the reindeer’s natural predator, modernity has brought humans to the forefront of threatening their survival. The main reasons include:

  1. Mass deforestation that robs the reindeer of safe breeding spaces
  2. Poaching of their meat, fur and antlers
  3. Human activity in their winter pastures

Currently, a comprehensive program involving Russia’s government, NGOs, travel agencies, indigenous peoples and environmentalists to bring the reindeer back from the brink of extinction is underway. It includes introducing tougher penalties for poachers, restrictions on tourism and establishes new conservation areas.