The North Pole. Maybe that’s the first place that comes to mind when you think about reindeer. But it shouldn’t be the only place.
The story of these reindeer takes place on an island off the east coast of Russia. That’s where local indigenous people herd reindeer, and where ExxonMobil is operating a major international oil and gas project on behalf of the Sakhalin-1 Consortium.
In this part of the world, reindeer herding has been the major economic activity for the Uilta people for centuries. It’s also why, to this day, reindeer hold an important place in their cultural and tribal traditions.
The Uilta culture and traditional ways of life in the multi-ethnic community are experiencing change due to modern technology and local development. As a result, the number of reindeer has decreased due to a combination of poaching, commercial activities and economic crises. At last count, the number of reindeer on the island hovered just around 100.
To assist with the situation, ExxonMobil collaborated with the regional council of Sakhalin Indigenous Minority Peoples of the North and the Sakhalin government to provide financial support to deliver 30 young reindeer from the mainland. The new reindeer will help grow the size and health of the herd now and for years to come.
In addition to helping to increase the local reindeer herd, ExxonMobil has provided opportunities for more than 40 indigenous people to work as environmental observers within Sakhalin-1 project. They advise ExxonMobil on climatic, geographic and environmental characteristics of the region and their own traditional use of natural resources in the area.
As a result of the more than a decade of collaboration, a bridge has been constructed over Chayvo Bay. Before the bridge was built, herders were forced to forge through the water or take a long way around the bay, while guiding the reindeer. Now when a herd drive is to take place, all bridge traffic is stopped so that herders can safely take the reindeer across.
So the next time someone mentions reindeer in conversation, be sure to tell them that the reindeer of the North Pole have cousins in Sakhalin, Russia.