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Scientists plan complex fauna studies on Taimyr Peninsula

Some reports say the world’s biggest population of reindeer - on Taimyr - shrunk by a half over past ten years because of excessive hunting

KRASNOYARSK, March 19. /TASS/. Complex studies of fauna in the Taimyr Peninsula’s eastern part are due within 2018, the Taimyr Natural Reserves’ management told TASS on Monday. Scientists will analyze populations of reindeer, polar bear, pinnipeds and others.

During the expedition in 2017, the Taimyr Natural Reserves’ experts and invited specialists studied fauna in the peninsula’s western areas. The upcoming expedition will round-up the Taimyr nature’s analysis.

In 2017, during the Pyasinskaya expedition, the biggest on Taimyr in past three decades, scientists used aerial, water and ground vehicles to collect information. The upcoming expedition, dubbed Eastern, would be of a similar scale.

Following reindeer

Studies of reindeer population on Taimyr is a key task for the expedition in 2018, the Taimyr Natural Reserves’ Deputy Director Ekaterina Lisovskaya told TASS.

"We hope, it would be a big research project in reindeer studies," she said.

"We have results of mathematical modelling, but biology is not mathematics, and modelling is not always true; so we hope to learn everything about reindeer’s population during this expedition."

Lately, scientists and the media have said with alarm the Taimyr’s population of reindeer, from where the animals migrate to Evenkia and Yakutia, is about 350-400 thousand. Scientists say, reindeer’s population is reducing in Russia’s all northern areas - currently, about 900,000 reindeers live in Russia, a few decades earlier the population was 1.5 million. The biggest threats are poaching and uncontrolled hunting, as well as imperfection legislation, which should be regulating different types of hunting for reindeer.

Some reports say the world’s biggest population of reindeer - on Taimyr - shrunk by a half over past ten years because of excessive hunting, as hunting there continues beyond legal terms and conditions.

Polar and portly

"Besides, we plan to research other species, as it would not be rational - from the point of view of the financial, human and aerial resources - to focus on reindeer only," she continued. "We plan watching various animals and birds, ichthyofaunae, and, surely, polar bears."

Earlier reports said 1.6-2.2 thousand polar bears lived on Taimyr and Arctic islands.

"We argue the claims the bears are skinny and do not have enough food on Taimyr - we have not seen a single slim polar bear on the Taimyr Peninsula," she said. "Those are rather portly animals… It is not a rare occasion that we can watch them hunt bearded seals."

Biggest rookery

While planning to watch the polar bears, scientists hope to observe pinnipeds: walruses and seals - the predators’ main food base. There is a unique place in eastern Taimyr - the Bay of Maria Pronchishcheva, the spouse of a Russian explorer, who died there in the XVIII century. In 2014, scientists registered there Russia’s biggest walrus rookery.

"Prior to that, the biggest rookery was the Wrangel Island," the expert said. "Back then, in the bay at a time were more than 1,000 walruses, and 30 bears were wandering nearby." However, she continued, the Wrangel Island is not giving easily its leading position to the Pronchishcheva Bay.

"Results of genetics tests show that on Taimyr lives a separate subspecies of walrus. We have not collected sufficient observation results to understand whether that many walruses come to the bay every year or it was a single case, an exception," she said. "Last year, we confirmed they were there, but any conclusions can be made only after observations for years running."

Dreaming of a fleet

Experts, working at Taimyr’s natural resources, dream of researching the Arctic islands and the water areas, which are parts of the Big Arctic Natural Reserve. This dream may come true if they have a marine vessel. When they have one, they would be able to capture a narwhal - a unique and rare mammal, which lives in high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean.

"We do not have such opportunities now, we are dreaming of a marine vessel," Lisovskaya said. "We have applied [to the Ministry of Natural Resources], though we realize a vessel costs like an aircraft, and buying it is not all, servicing it is also a concern. But we have a big sea area, which requires preservation and research."