Christmas crisis for Canada’s iconic reindeer herd
A reindeer herd which was once the largest in the world has shrunk to a fraction of its former size, official surveys have revealed.
Canada’s George River Herd once numbered 8-900,000, but a recent government survey found only 27,600 animals survive.
The herd’s unprecedented and dramatic decline has left local indigenous people fearful for its survival.
A ‘tsunami of factors’ has been blamed for the decline, which government ministers have called ‘significant and frightening.’
The reindeer, known as caribou in North America, is central to the lives and culture of many indigenous peoples in the sub-Arctic. The 63% population drop just in the last two years has left many of them shocked.
Speaking to Survival, George Rich, an elder from northeast Canada’s Innu people, said, ‘one of the major factors is continued mining and mineral exploration.
‘For example, Quest Minerals has recently announced that it wants to build a road through the heart of the calving grounds, as well as flying helicopters and planes back and forth from exploration sites.’
Canada’s promotion of industrial projects on its land has destroyed large tracts of the reindeer’s grazing grounds, heavily disrupting migratory routes.
The herd’s decline has led some biologists to blame indigenous hunting practices. However the Innu, who have co-existed with the caribou for thousands of years, have been quick to defend themselves.
Rich said, ‘the government always blames the Aboriginal people, but we are deeply connected to the caribou and have lived with them for generations.’
Many Innu are calling for greater control over their territories and resources, and to be treated as equals in decisions that affect their lands and the animals that live there.
Stephen Corry, Survival’s Director said today, ‘It’s easy to blame indigenous peoples for over-hunting because they’ve usually no voice to defend themselves from these accusations. Yet it’s been proven in countless studies that they are the world’s best conservationists. When will governments and scientists realize this? We need to start listening to what indigenous peoples have to say about matters on their own land: they know best.’
Related news articles
- In pictures: The reindeer people under threat this Christmas December 18, 2012
- Innu man completes historic 4,000 km walk April 17, 2012
- Christmas reindeer mystery as world’s largest herd plummets December 21, 2011
- Brazil’s president Temer trashes Indian rights for personal political gain July 21, 2017
- Indigenous South Americans condemn failure to protect uncontacted tribes as “genocide” July 13, 2017
- Face of evicted tribal woman projected onto Indian embassy in Berlin – as Modi arrives for G20 July 6, 2017
- One of the last Avá Canoeiro Indians dies July 3, 2017