Hungry soldiers drive reindeer to extinction

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

A scientist who recently returned from the Siberian peninsula of Kamchatka says poachers have wiped out its wild reindeer population.

“We haven’t seen a single reindeer,” said Vladimir Fil from the Ecology and Nature Use Institute. “Anecdotal evidence is that there still are 30 to 40 specimens, but these reindeer would be too few to survive (as a species),” Fil said.

Reindeer in the area numbered up to 5,000 before 1991.

Most of northern Kamchatka is occupied by Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces.

According to Fil, the reindeer population in Kamchatka began shrinking in the 1990s following the demise of the Soviet Union and a sharp decrease in Russia’s military spending. Financial problems prompted local commanders to look for ways to supplement rations, he said.

“They took to shooting reindeer when soldiers went hungry,” Fil said.

He said he often saw poaching when he was based in the area a few years ago.

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