Some 200 reindeer have been found dead in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic, the Norwegian Polar Institute disclosed on Monday.
This unusually high number of deaths resulted from climate change in the region, the Institute explained.
Three researchers found the corpses of the animals, who died of hunger during the past winter, while conducting the Institute’s annual mapping of wild reindeer populations in the island group, located some 1,200 km from the North Pole.
The head of the project, Åshild Ønvik Pedersen, attributed this “very high mortality rate” to the consequences of global warming, which, in the Arctic, is occurring twice as fast as in the rest of the world, according to climatologists.
Climate change causes much more rain, Pedersen told the French news agency, AFP. The rain falls on the snow and forms a sheet of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions for the animals very bad, she explained.
Reindeer eat mainly lichen, which they dig up with their hooves through the snow in winter. However, the alternating frosts and thaws can form one or many impenetrable layers of ice which deprive the animals of their food.