Apr. 28 - Scientists in Siberia have launched a monitoring programme aimed at preserving the world's largest population of reindeer. For communities across the region, the herds are an important source of food and transportation, so technology is being deployed to ensure their future health. Jim Drury has more.
It's estimated that Siberia is home to more than a million reindeer...but in recent decades, keeping track of the herds has been an impossible task. Regular aerial monitoring of reindeer numbers is simply too expensive but, now scientists are trying an alternative method. Siberian Federal University Professor Alexander Savchenko heads a new program to fit the animals with satellite transmission collars. He says tracking them via satellite will provide information on migration routes, habitat, and wintering sites. SOUNDBITE (Russian) PROFESSOR ALEXANDER SAVCHENKO, SIBERIAN FEDERAL UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We put on a relatively small number of collars on the reindeer and the signal is transmitted via the satellite to the recipient station. From the station the signal is sent to the monitor of a researcher who can track the reindeer movements from the comfort of the office." For indigenous communities who depend on the reindeer for food, transport, and clothing, a healthy herd is crucial to long term survival. And with illegal hunting on the rise, the collars could help authorities devise strategies for herd preservation. They were manufactured specially by Russian company Es-Pas. Director Alexander Salman says they're lightweight, comfortable for the animal, and last for up to a year. SOUNDBITE (Russian) ALEXANDER SALMAN, DIRECTOR OF 'ES-PAS' COMPANY, HOLDING COLLAR, SAYING: "The device is fixed on an animal and turned on by removing the magnet attached to it. From that moment the device starts to identify its own coordinates with the help of the navigation receiver and transmit the GPS coordinates." Savchenko's team should receive the first results this summer before expanding the project to more herds, helping indigenous communities keep track of their livelihoods.