Nenets reindeer herders’ migration routes change due to cell towers
© RIA Novosti. Pavel Lisicyn

Nenets reindeer herders’ migration routes change due to cell towers

Mobile communication towers have changed the migration routes and schedules of European Nenets reindeer herders, according to a study by anthropologists from the Center for Arctic and Siberian Research made as part of the Clean Arctic - Vostok 77 high-latitude complex expedition.

The herders remain longer than usual in their camps in zones where there is reliable internet coverage, with the herds destroying reindeer moss in an area with a 30 km diameter around the cell towers.

“The situation is very much as expected. It is not just because those busy with the day-to-day chores in the chum tents want to chat with their friends. Today, government services, medicine, and studies are concentrated in the online space, and nomads are also people whom government agencies require to perform certain bureaucratic rituals,” said Dmitry Belov, deputy head of the expedition.

Scientists noticed changes in routes and schedules back in 2019 in the communities of reindeer herders on the left bank of the Yenisei.

“The Eastern Nenets started to deviate from the path trodden for centuries by their ancestors due to the need to connect to communication networks. We observe the same phenomenon among the westernmost Nenets in the Nenets Autonomous Area. But you can’t cover the entire tundra with towers, so for three years now, we have been testing various satellite communication sets that could provide families of reindeer herders, hunters and fishermen with access to the internet from anywhere in the tundra,” Belov commented.

Testing of communication kits has already made it possible to determine the most effective combination of hardware equipment for the tundra and communication provider’s services. Based on the results of the next stage of the expedition, the scientific group will prepare a report on research and testing.