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Monday, December 22, 1997 Published at 16:24 GMT


Reindeer under threat
image: [ It is feared radiation could make its way into the food chain ]
It is feared radiation could make its way into the food chain

RPA director Ole Harbitz: Radiation problem could become serious (Dur: 2'31")
Scientists are warning of new threats to reindeer which could lead to a sharp fall in their numbers

The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority says reindeer throughout the country and the Arctic circle are at risk of radiation poisoning.

It says that radiation from disasters such as the Chernobyl fallout has been absorbed by lichens, a moss-like vegetation, which make up the reindeer's staple diet.

The RPA has warned that the lichens now contain much greater levels of radiation than would normally be expected and that this is making its way into the food chain.

[ image: Reindeer population could fall in the next few months]
Reindeer population could fall in the next few months
In Norway and other neighbouring countries, reindeer are a valued source of meat. The RPA say they are worried that there is now a risk of cancer for those who continually eat it.

A grim Christmas

According to environmental groups, the reindeer population north of Lapland is also facing a crisis.

Friends of the Earth warn that freezing temperatures and the destruction of the reindeer's natural habitat could seriously deplete populations throughout the region.

FOE's Georgina Green: Governments must do more (Dur: 3'04")
Their concerns have been verified by the Russian Government, which says that up to a 1000 reindeer a day may already be dying.

In winter, reindeer survive by eating hanging lichen that only grows on old trees. But many forest have been cut down by loggers to supply the timber and paper markets.

According to Friends of the Earth, 95% of Finland and Sweden's old-growth forests have already been lost and the remaining fragments are still being logged.

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