A herd of over 400 reindeer have drowned after the ice they were crossing gave way, sending them plunging into freezing waters.
The reindeer were travelling to their winter pastures from their base in northern Sweden’s Jokkmokk area when they drowned in the river, reports The Local. The herd was part of a larger group of around 3,000 animals who were making the river crossing when the tragedy occurred.
The route has been used on numerous occasions previously without incident. ”The ice suddenly gave way and hundreds of reindeer fell into the water,” said the chairman of the Sirges Sami settlement in Jokkmokk Bertil Kielatis. “Now we are working to recover the animals that have drowned,” he added.
Sirges is the largest Sami village in Sweden and contains some 300 inhabitants of which 90 are reindeer herders. The accident represents a significant financial loss for the group and will have a serious impact across the local community. ”It’s a tragedy in many ways,” said Kielatis. ”Not only for the reindeer that suffered but for the herders who were helpless to save their animals.”
Kielatis said that the route taken was in no way unusual and the methods used were commonplace. The reindeer were herded using snow-mobiles along with helicopter assistance. ”This is how we usually work nowadays when leading a large herd up or down from the mountains,” he stated.