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Climate change costing herders deer


Climate change costing herders deer

In partnership with

Olav Mathis Eira, reindeer herder in Norway.

“My reindeer are almost a year old. They were very weak in the winter so we had to bring them home and feed them by hand.

“The rest of the herd are on the winter grazing land on the Swedish side of the border.

“I have seen many changes especially in the last 20 years. The late 1980s and 1990s were a really bad time. The weather suddenly became wilder. There was much more precipitation, and the worst thing was that it started to rain in the winter. Then freezing, and then thawing and then freezing and that gave the reindeer big problems.

“They depend on digging down to the lichen, and if the snow is packed too hard or it’s too icy they can’t reach their food and the result is starvation.

“We lost a lot of them – two-thirds of the herds in this area. The number of reindeer dropped all around the (North) Pole in the Arctic. In Siberia, in Alaska, in Canada, in Greenland… numbers dropped everywhere during the 1990s.

“We had to do something. We couldn’t just do nothing and watch the reindeer starve to death. So we started to buy man-made food, manufactured pellets you know. It was the only way to save their lives.

“In the beginning we lost quite a lot because they were not used to eating this kind of manufactured food.

“We had to teach them to eat. We had to put the pellets in the reindeers’ mouths to let them get the taste and to understand that this was food. In the beginning, they didn’t understand that this was food.

“Here in Scandinavia, we are losing a lot of our grazing land every year. A warmer Arctic means more encroachment. It gives industry more access into our areas. The new thing is windmills, and they are all built in reindeer grazing areas. We lose land to that too, so in a way we have a double-dose of the effects of climate change.

“Reindeer herding is essential to the Saami culture, because the reindeer herders have kept the traditions, the language and the music alive.

“So if reindeer herding disappears, it will have a big effect on the entire Saami culture.”

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