Bucking the trend: the Scottish reindeer offering hope for an imperilled species

Reindeer are native to the UK, their natural habitat is now quite little. As the last sub-arctic environment in the UK, the Cairngorms is the only place in the country where reindeer can vary freely. To keep them from overgrazing the area, the herders keep the size of the herd at around 150 by managing the number of cows are allowed to keep up bulls during the reproducing season, which falls in the autumn.

Reindeer are believed to be belonging to Scotland, however ended up being extinct around 800 years ago due to over-hunting. In 1952, the website in the Cairngorms became the first place in the UK in which the animals were reestablished, after Swedish herder Mikel Utsi visited with his wife and thought the location would make a good house for them. Ever since, the herd has grown from 8 to 150 and is looked after by a group of 10 full-time herders.

This time of year, the run-up to Christmas, is a hectic for the animals and personnel alike. The reindeer go on tour, pulling and checking out children Father Christmas on his sleigh. Each animal only does a number of weeks work, however, before returning home to the mountains.

The job modifications with the seasons. In winter season, she heads out early in the morning, trekking into the blustery mountains to discover the herd. “Its not unusual for it to be -15 degrees and rather deep snow,” she says. It can take a while; the reindeer are totally free to stroll around 10,000 acres.

As soon as the animals have actually been found, she moves them closer to the centre, so they can take tours out later in the day. “Theyre really greedy, so theyll follow us whenever we have a bag of food,” Brooks chuckles.

The group of herders can work out whos who straight away, Brooks states. The animals all have extremely different faces– some have white noses, others are light brown or dark– and they have distinct personalities.

Brooks admits she has some favourites. I truly like Gloriana as well, shes quite shy but has acquired confidence over the years. Berlin is likewise a lovely tame kid.”

Reindeer are thought to be native to Scotland, but became extinct around 800 years earlier. Image: Natalie Swiader

Reindeer were presented to the Cairngorms in 1952. Image: Getty

Spring is the calving season so the herders bring pregnant women into a 1,200-acre hill enclosure to watch on them. Each year, Brooks and her colleagues name the newborn reindeer after a new theme. Parmesan, Camembert, and Mozzarella were born one year, while in 2019, calves were named after European cities. The herd now consists of Athens, Oslo, Florence and Bordeaux.

Arctic reindeer are at risk due to the environment crisis, however in the Highlands of Scotland the UKs only free-range herd is flourishing. We talk to one young herder about life amongst these magnificent animals

On a snowy winter morning, Lotti Papastavrou Brooks, 23, can typically be discovered someplace in the Cairngorm mountains trying to find reindeer. Shell probably have a 15kg sack of food with her– filled with hay, garlic, barley sugar beet and dark grain– as she ventures uphill through the snow browsing for the majestic, antlered animals. It might be an hour or two before she finds them roaming somewhere on the mountainside, however shes confident the prospect of breakfast will attract them in when she does.

The centre is run as a visitor destination– none of the animals are eliminated for meat, chosen or sold on. Individuals originate from all over the world to see the reindeer throughout the year, consisting of enthusiasts from Sweden or Norway, along with individuals who have actually never seen deer before. The animals are mild and good natured with everyone, Brooks states. “You can quickly walk among them, despite the fact that they have huge antlers on their heads. You d marvel how unwinding it is.”

Brooks, who is initially from Bristol, very first offered at the centre during the school vacations aged 14, and began working complete time with the animals around a year ago. “I had visited as a kid and understood the family who run the reindeer centre fairly well,” she discusses. “I had actually constantly liked the reindeer and the area, and was keen to get more involved.”

Brooks doesnt have a typical graduate job. She is among the UKs only free-range reindeer herders, at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, near Aviemore in the Highlands of Scotland.

Reindeer are greedy, so theyll follow us whenever we have a bag of food, states herder, Lottie Brooks

Last year, some 200 reindeer– an abnormally high number– were found dead from hunger in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, according to the Norwegian Polar Institute, which suggested the environment crisis was to blame. The reality that this Scottish herd is prospering may bring a degree of want to enthusiasts of these stunning animals.

Brooks is responsible for writing letters to supporters who have adopted reindeer. “We have some extremely enthusiastic adopters who embrace up to about 8 reindeer and understand practically everything there is to understand about them,” she states with a smile.

In spite of the love lots of have for reindeer, the environment crisis is putting them under threat. The population of wild reindeer in the Arctic has actually decreased by more than half in the last 20 years, to around 2.1 million animals.

You can quickly stroll amongst them– you d be surprised how unwinding it is

In spite of the job complete satisfaction, being a reindeer herder can be effort, with early starts, lots of strolling, and the requirement to haul heavy sacks of food up the mountains. Its likewise a lifestyle choice. Brooks copes with four other herders.

On a snowy winter morning, Lotti Papastavrou Brooks, 23, can typically be found somewhere in the Cairngorm mountains looking for reindeer. Reindeer are believed to be native to Scotland, however ended up being extinct around 800 years ago due to over-hunting. People come from all over the world to see the reindeer throughout the year, consisting of enthusiasts from Sweden or Norway, as well as individuals who have never seen deer prior to. Each year, Brooks and her coworkers name the newborn reindeer after a brand-new theme. Regardless of the task fulfillment, being a reindeer herder can be difficult work, with early starts, lots of walking, and the need to haul heavy sacks of food up the mountains.

Living carefully together suggests the team needs to get on well. “We all live extremely communally, taking turns to prepare. Its a great deal of fun.” Throughout the summer season, they are typically joined by a different volunteer every week.

Main image: A reindeer herder in the Cairngorm mountains. Getty

In spite of the tough work and remote area, volunteers are normally extremely interested and hard-working, Brooks reports. And for herself, she has no strategies to offer it up for an office task any time quickly.

” From my bedroom window I can see great deals of mountains. There are also gorgeous lochs, so we are fortunate to be able to swim, run, cycle, bike, ski and climb, all from the doorstep. Ive seen the reindeer walk throughout the ski slopes prior to.”

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