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Russia’s Big Arctic Natural Reserve: fish, birds and ships

There are more than 120 species of birds and 18 species of mammals living in the reserve

KRASNOYARSK, May 18. /TASS/. The Big Arctic Natural Reserve was founded in Russia 25 years ago. It united four million hectares of unique natural territories in the Russian Arctic. It is the biggest natural reserve in Russia and in Europe: the reserve’s protected areas make almost 4.17 million hectares. 

The natural reserve is divided into seven big areas, which are washed by the Arctic Ocean’s two seas: the Kara and Laptev Seas. Most areas are the tundra, and in the north - the Arctic desert.

Here live more than 120 species of birds and 18 species of mammals, including polar bears, muskoxen, walruses, and Beluga whales.

Smart Willem Barentsz

In the early 1990s, an international expedition of ornithologists came to a small bay, at the Meduza River’s estuary, where the waters flow into the Kara Sea’s Yenisei Bay. "After that expedition, appeared the project of the Big Arctic Natural Reserve," Deputy Director of the United Administration of Taimyr’s Natural Reserves Ekaterina Lisovskaya told TASS.

In 1995, with financial support from the Netherland’s government the Willem Barentsz research station was opened in the Meduza Bay. The scientific station bears the name of a Dutch explorer, who in the XVII century was looking in the Arctic a route from Europe to China. He did not make it to Taimyr: the traveler died as he was spending winter on Novaya Zemlya. Anyway, his idea of a route along Russia’s Arctic coast towards the Far East is realistic - we know it as the Northern Sea Route.

Visa-free geese

Most Eurasian geese are related to Taimyr. In early July, their flocks fill the sky above the tundra. Those are the youngsters heading to safe and far-away places. One of such places is the mouth of the Pyasina River in the peninsula’s north-west. The water and swamp areas there are of international importance and are protected by the Big Arctic Natural Reserve.

The geese living on the peninsula spend winters in Europe and Asia, covering distances of thousands kilometers. From Europe to Taimyr, most geese fly over North Kazakhstan’s steppes and West Siberia’s taiga, some geese fly along the Baltic shores, crossing Russian European tundra, and then crossing Yamal and the Gydansky Peninsula. From Asia (China, India and neighboring territories), gees return via Mongolia, Buryatia, Chita and Irkutsk Regions, and further on along the Yenisei’s right shore.

Many birds migrate across Taimyr. This is why almost 30 years earlier, Dutch scientists stopped at the Meduza Bay. They arrived there following sandpipers, who gather in the Dutch sky after winter in different places. From there, they cross Crimea to reach in the end the Meduza Bay. There they make nests and in autumn return to the west.

Khrushchev’s pink salmon

Massive shoals of pink salmon were registered in the Pyasina River in summer 2016. Its traditional area is the Far East and the Pacific Ocean. In the 1950s, the Soviet Union’s leader Nikita Khrushchev in the attempt to feed the country ordered to try having pink salmon grow in the Barents and White Seas. Thus, the fish spread as far as Norway, and the Yenisey’s mouth. Nowadays, in the Pyasina, this fish’s shoal is second after whitefish.

Polyunsaturated fish

The alien pink salmon is, no doubt, valuable, but on Taimyr Arctic fish is much more popular. Results of the research by Krasnoyarsk scientists have proved that certain northern fish are valuable for very high polyunsaturated acids, which cut risks of heart and oncology diseases, and which favor brain’s functions.

Productive muskoxen

The Big Arctic National Reserve is home for unique animals - muskoxen. They used to live on Taimyr more than two thousand years ago. The animals disappeared because of the hunting and the climate change. In the 1970s, a few herd were brought from Canada and the U.S.

Nowadays, the animals live across Taimyr’s vast territories. As of 2012, the population was 9,000, by 2020 it may reach 25-30 thousand, and further on - to 200,000.

Well-built bears

The polar bear is the Big Arctic’s star. Dutch explorers wrote about those animals. Members of Willem Barentsz’s expeditions got poisoned with its liver.

Polar bears are on the islands year round, and on the mainland - mostly in winter, and in the northernmost areas. The polar bear’s population on Taimyr and on Arctic islands is estimated at 1,600-2,200. Scientists plan to make new calculations in 2018.

"We disclaim the statements the bears on Taimyr are slim and do not have sufficient food," the natural parks’ representative said. "We have not seen a single exhausted bear on the Taimyr Peninsula"

Understudied walruses

Taimyr’s east is a unique place - there is the Maria Pronchishcheva Bay. It bears the name of a Russian explorer’s wife, who died there in the XVIII century. In 2014, scientists registered there Russia’s biggest walrus rookery - more than 1,000 animals. Genetic studies have proved the walruses living on Taimyr are a separate subspecies, which has not been studied thoroughly.

Other marine mammals living here are: ringed seal and bearded seal live across the Kara Sea.

Missing ships

The natural reserve’s part is the Brekhovskiye Islands park, which is a group of islands in the Yenisei’s delta. The islands bear the name of Russian entrepreneurs, who used to have their facilities there in the XVIII century.

Explorers used to find here old ships’ wrecks. In 2016, searchers found on an island wrecks of a schooner and a barge of the early XX century. In 2015-2016, scientists found wrecks of the British vessels Phoenix and Thames, they plan searching for the Roddam ship and the Northern Lights schooner.