Wildlife
© Wild Wonders of Europe / Peter Cairns / WWF

Reindeer & Caribou

Arctic caribou and wild reindeer are truly circumpolar animals, linking regions and people around the globe.

Reindeer facts

  • scientific name
    Rangifer tarandus
  • weight
    65-210 kg, varying by subspecies
  • length
    1.6 - 2.1 m
  • status
    Least concern (IUCN)
© IUCN

Why they're threatened

Climate change
As the Arctic warms, vegetation patterns are shifting. Climate change means different plants in the Arctic, more precipitation, and warmer winters that cover plants with ice instead of snow. Reindeer and caribou will need to adapt their range to the availability of food.
Ineffective land-use planning
Wild reindeer and arctic caribou are migratory, and their habitat crosses territorial and national borders. As the climate changes, and migration patterns shift, it will be increasingly important for governments to implement plans that support wildlife and ecosystems.
Overhunting
Infrequent monitoring of populations means hunting quotas may not be updated quickly enough, increasing pressure on previously healthy populations.
Industrial development
Most herds now have some form of industrial development or exploration proposed on their annual ranges. Industrial development is increasingly viable further and further north.

Caribou, reindeer and people

For thousands of years, reindeer and caribou have provided the basis of life for many cultures through meat and fat, skins for clothing, bedding and tents; sinew for sewing and antlers for tools.

For thousands of years, reindeer and caribou have provided the basis of life for many cultures through meat and fat, skins for clothing, bedding and tents; sinew for sewing and antlers for tools.

©naturepl.com / Bryan and Cherry Alexander / WWF
In Sweden, Finland and Russia, reindeer sustain herding communities that have depended on the animals for income, food and clothing for millenia.

In Sweden, Finland and Russia, reindeer sustain herding communities that have depended on the animals for income, food and clothing for millenia.

©Staffan Widstrand / WWF
In Canada, caribou are an important source of food for northern communities, valued at over \$100 million/year.

In Canada, caribou are an important source of food for northern communities, valued at over \$100 million/year.

©Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada

How we work

Monitoring reindeer poaching in Russia

WWF-Russia supports anti-poaching raids and improved population monitoring to map reindeer migration routes and likely poaching hotspots

Promoting sustainable quotas

In Greenland, WWF advocates for sustainable hunting quotas to ensure healthy fish and wildlife populations.

Supporting local voices on caribou in Canada

Working with northern communities in the Arctic by providing resources and expertise to ensure that community viewpoints on conservation issues are heard in decision-making processes impacting caribou habitat.

Supporting reindeer herders

WWF is working with Saami to explore ways of reducing future cumulative impacts of different pressures (like mining, wind power, forestry, tourism and large carnivores) on reindeer herding in Sweden.

Publications

The Circle 03.19
The Circle 03.19
15 October 2019
The Circle 03.17
The Circle 03.17
1 February 2018
The Circle 02.14
The Circle 02.14
24 April 2014
The Barents Sea Ecoregion: A biodiversity assessment
The Barents Sea Ecoregion: A biodiversity assessment
29 March 2004

Meet the team

WWF-Sweden

Senior Advisor, Arctic and marine

WWF-Canada

Vice President, Arctic

WWF-Denmark

Project Coordinator

WWF-Canada

Senior specialist, Arctic species & ecosystems

WWF Arctic Coordinating Team

Senior Specialist, Arctic species