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WWF starts reindeer monitoring and conservation project in Southern Siberia

14 september 2021
Reindeer photo traps installed in the Altai Nature Reserve

In June-July, scientists and inspectors of the Altai Nature Reserve examined the habitats of the forest reindeer in a specially protected natural area. For 29 days, the expedition participants covered 542 kilometers on foot and on horseback, explored the territory where reindeer was met, and installed automatic cameras on passes and trails to track rare ungulates.

Forest reindeer monitoring expedition supported by WWF.
(c) Y. Ivanushkin
Siberian forest reindeer is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation. In Altai Republic forest reindeer inhabit only the area of Altaisky Nature Reserve. WWF launches the project to preserve the species. First it’s important to calculate the number of reindeer in modern groups, to clarify the state of the species. It is very difficult to implement as the habitats of the reindeer in the Altai-Sayan Mountains are remote. The scientists rarely meet animals in the wild during expeditions. The creation of a network of automatic cameras will provide information on the distribution and biology of the reindeer, and estimate the size of the group. Further, it is important to develop a conservation plan for the species and involve all partners, ”says Alexander Karnaukhov, senior project coordinator of the WWF Representation in the Altai-Sayan ecoregion.
Forest reindeer camera-trapping in Altaisky Nature Reserve.
(c) Y. Kalinkin., R. Yakovlev, Y. Ivanushkin

Based on expedition results, the scientists of Altaisky Reserve conclude: in June-July, forest reindeers stay on the mountain peaks and high-mountain tundra. So animals avoid gnats - annoying mosquitoes, flies and midges - the eternal companions of deer in the wild.

In addition to the gnat, the reindeers are disturbed by large ungulates, such as Red deer. For example, this summer, inspectors of Altaisky Nature Reserve observed a young reindeer trying to go to a large snowfield to rest, but he was blocked by two red deer who later drove him down the slope. So two species of ungulates compete in the wild for watering places, pastures and salt licks - natural outcrops of minerals in the soil, which ungulates lick to replenish their balance.

Forest reindeer, red deers and stags in Altasky Nature Reserve.
(c) R. Yakovlev
“Recently we spotted a reindeer on the watershed ridge, lying on a snowfield and sleeping. He noticed us from a distance of about 20 meters, got up and ran along the snowfield closer to us, then he got his bearings, ran behind the mountain's mane, but soon returned, as if to make sure that the danger was real, and then only ran down the mane ”, - says WWF Expert, the head of the expedition Yuri Kalinkin, a leading researcher of the Altai nature reserve.
Forest reindeer track on snow.
(c) R. Yakovlev

The second camera-trapping expedition will take place in September. 

In the 19th century, the reindeer inhabited almost a third of the modern Altai Republic. To date, the area of ​​its habitats has significantly decreased and today occupies the area of several tens of thousands of hectares in the hard-to-reach natural boundaries of the North-Eastern Altai. The number of the species has also greatly decreased. Reindeer are very trusting, it is not difficult to get close to them. That is why this species of ungulates primarily suffers from poachers. It affects the state of the population and climate change, which requires further study.

For additional information please contact
Altai-Sayan ecoregional press-officer
Senior Project Coordinator