Reindeer in danger

CLIMATE change is making reindeer near the North Pole skinny as they are having trouble finding enough food to keep them plump during the winter, scientists have warned.

While studies on global warming carried out on and around the Arctic island of Svalbard, just 1,300 km from the North Pole, tend to focus on the effects on polar bears investigators from the James Hutton Institute in Scotland and Norwegian researchers have this time focused on reindeer.

The results of their investigation have led to concern as, over the last 25 years, the average weight of wild reindeer which inhabit the island has fallen from 55 kilos to just 48.

This, ecologist Professor Steve Albon explained, is due to the fact that the snow of the past is now often falling as rain which then freezes, meaning the reindeer are unable to get at the plants which form their diet. 

The problem worsens due to the fact that plants flourish in the warmer summer, leading to more satisfied, lively females conceiving in the autumn. While in the 1990s there were just 800 wild reindeer in the herd studied, it has now grown to include around 1,400 members meaning there is even less food to go round in the winter.

With temperatures in the arctic rising faster than the average for the world and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere constantly increasing, the situation looks bleak for Rudolph and his friends.

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