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Great news for Arctic species work

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Reindeer, Svalbard, Norway. Wim van Passel / WWF

The Swedish Postcode Lottery has awarded almost $700,000 USD (570,000 EUR) for three WWF wildlife conservation projects in the Arctic. This funding will help WWF address critical challenges for Arctic species in a warming world where new development opportunities – and new threats – are on the horizon.

Here’s what the award will help us do:

Protect calving grounds for caribou in Canada’s “cradle”

On the Canadian tundra, large herds of caribou (also known as reindeer) migrate back and forth between winter and summer grounds. In spring, caribou halt at the calving grounds and the females give birth to one or two calves. Within minutes the tiny calves are standing, ready to journey to their grazing grounds in the north.

Caribou herds in the Canadian Arctic have dropped by half in the last 30 years. Currently, only around 20% of calving grounds for caribou in Nunavut are under protective management. This means that 80% of calving grounds are exposed to disturbance and development, mostly in the form of new infrastructure and mining projects. WWF will work with partners, including indigenous communities, to identify calving grounds for caribou in Nunavut, an area the size of western Europe. Our aim is to have 100% of calving grounds in Nunavut safeguarded from disturbance.

Stop poaching of Russian reindeer

The largest reindeer herd in the world roams the Taimyr Peninsula in Russia’s far north.

This herd has recently experienced a worrying decline in numbers, from 800,000 in the year 2000 to around 300,000 in 2016. The recent shocking discovery of large-scale poaching of an estimated 80,000 – 100,000 reindeer per year from the Taimyr herd warrants immediate attention. Reindeer are poached for their tongues and antlers, which are then illegally traded.

WWF and partners will track reindeer to identify and advocate for the protection of important migration routes where reindeer are most vulnerable to poaching. WWF will also work with Russian enforcement authorities to stop the poaching.

Use drones to count polar bears

Wrangel Island is an important hub for polar bears in the eastern Russian Arctic. It’s known as a polar bear nursery or maternity ward, with the highest density of polar bear maternity dens in the world. Normally, polar bear surveys are carried out from skidoos, ships or helicopters.

WWF will work with scientists to pilot a new a survey technique that uses drones, enabling researchers access to the mountainous interior of Wrangel Island via a “drone’s-eye view”. If the pilot project proves to be as accurate as traditional methods, researchers will have a much less expensive method of counting bears that can be used in the future to identify maternity dens and survey other polar bear populations. The results will also help guide visitors to Wrangel Island away from important denning areas to avoid conflict between people and polar bears.

The Swedish Postcode Lottery funds will provide important support for these projects over the next three years in Canada and Russia, and as part of WWF’s Arctic Programme.

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