Currently there are 730,000 animals but numbers are 'unsustainable', risking disease spreading and chronic overgrazing.
Equally there are fears the cull could destroy age-old reindeer nomadic herding in Yamal. Picture: YSIA
Officials are demanding a huge reduction in reindeer numbers on the Yamal Peninsula and the rest of Yamalo-Nenets region.
One proposed scheme would see nomadic herders who give up their reindeer for the cull to be rewarded not in cash but with affordable mortgages to buy apartments.
Equally there are fears the cull could destroy age-old reindeer nomadic herding in Yamal - a name which means 'the end of the earth'. Governor Dmitry Kobylkin has demanded a viable plan by the end of September to reduce the number of reindeer by a quarter of a million.
Traditionally the slaughtering season is November and December, and while details are not yet agreed, the number of reindeer to be culled is expected to be massively increased.
'In Soviet times the livestock in Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region was kept at the number of 300,000-to-400,000 heads. Now there are 700,000 already.' Pictures: The Siberian Times, Georgy Shpikalov
The usual method of slaughter is an electric shock to the forehead immobilising the animal from the high voltage charge. It is then slung upside down on a hanging line, where its antlers are removed.
The throat is slit, and blood is drained from the animal, and can be exported, especially to China, where it has traditional medicinal uses. The proposal for a major cull follows two traumatic events to hit reindeer herds in Yamelo-Nenets in recent years.
Freak warm weather followed by a freeze in winter 2013-14 caused an ice-over of pastures which led to the deaths of some 70,000 reindeer in a famine. This summer, there was an outbreak of deadly anthrax after the hottest Arctic summer on record.
The throat is slit, and blood is drained from the animal, and can be exported, especially to China, where it has traditional medicinal uses. Pictures: Yamal Reindeer, Vesti.Yamal
The 'zombie' disease frozen seven or more decades ago was awakened in the thawing permafrost, leading to the death of a boy, and 2,349 reindeer, plus at least four dogs. There were three separate outbreaks, but now there are warnings that large herd numbers can lead new cases of infection to rapidly spread.
'Reindeer livestock numbers in Yamal are too high,' said Nikolai Vlasov, deputy head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia's Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service.
'The more dense the animal population is, the worse the disease transfer medium (and) the more often animals get sick. Density of livestock, especially in the tundra areas that are very fragile, should be regulated.'
He called for scientifically-calculated targets based on what can be sustained on pastures. Reindeer limits should not be exceeded. 'The number of animals should not surpass this,' he said.
'Otherwise, they will kill the pastures and later will destroy the indigenous minorities of the North who will have nothing to live on. It is impossible to breed reindeers without limits.'
This summer, there was an outbreak of deadly anthrax after the hottest Arctic summer on record. Pictures: Vesti.Yamal, YANAO press-service
He said Yamal was 'reaching a dangerous milestone'. 'I base my conclusions on Soviet standards,' he said. 'Back then livestock was kept at the same number, 300,000-to-400,000 heads. Now there are 700,000 already.'
The governor has suggested moving to the system in Finland of fenced pastures. 'Artificial food has its advantages and disadvantages, but in terms of purity of meat, timely vaccination and reindeer health, obviously, there are more advantages,' he said.
He has also proposed moving huge numbers of reindeer to southern regions of Yamelo-Nenets - an area substantially larger than France in size - to allow the recovery of northern pastures.
On the overgrazed peninsula - which is also home to Russia's largest supply of natural gas - there is sufficient food for 110,000 reindeer, he said. But there are now 300,000 animals in this part of the region.
Governor Dmitry Kobylkin has demanded a viable plan by the end of September to reduce the number of reindeer by a quarter of a million. Picture: YANAO press-service
Anthropologist Olga Murashko has expressed concerns about the proposals. 'I am very worried about the fate of the private herders, who still perpetuate the tradition of family and clan based reindeer herding,' she said. 'Most of them have small herds of about a hundred deer.'
A speeding up of gas licensing also troubles her. 'The coincidence of this news on plans - to urgently reduce the reindeer population in Yamal by over one third with the rapid issuing of licenses for gas extraction in the same region - causes the greatest concern over the fate of the reindeer herders,' she said.
They nomadic groups sustained their way of life through the Soviet era but now it was under threat, she said. 'A huge number of nomads on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas will lose their means of existence and opportunities to maintain their traditional way of life.
'Additionally, it is clear that within the short time frame given, the indigenous reindeer herders cannot be properly consulted on the administration's plans to annihilate a large number of reindeer.'
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