Some herds have dropped by more than 95 per cent from historic highs
IQALUIT, Dec. 6, 2016 /CNW/ - The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has designated barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) as "threatened," bolstering calls by WWF-Canada to protect key habitat for this essential Arctic species.
This is the first time COSEWIC has assessed barren-ground caribou, and the threatened status indicates the species "is likely to become endangered if nothing is done," according to COSEWIC's designation.
Though barren-ground caribou exist across Northern Canada, from Yukon to Baffin Island, calving grounds for most herds are found in Nunavut. While herd numbers fluctuate naturally, the severity and widespread nature of the current declines have raised red flags that can no longer be ignored. Of Canada's 14 largest barren-ground caribou populations, 12 are in steep decline, some by as much as 95 per cent from historic highs.
Key steps to protect barren-ground caribou:
- The federal environment minister must list barren-ground caribou as threatened under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) so that a recovery strategy and action plan are developed and implemented.
- Include caribou habitat protection in the Nunavut Land Use Plan by designating protected areas to keep new industrial development out of core caribou calving and post-calving areas, as well as freshwater crossings and key access corridors.
David Miller, WWF-Canada president and CEO, says:
"This designation shows we can no longer ignore the dire state of Canada's barren-ground caribou herds. In one of the great migratory marvels in the world, these herds used to flood over the tundra in an ocean-like tide. It's almost inconceivable they are now threatened. We call on the government of Canada to act swiftly to grant caribou protections under the Species at Risk Act and consult with territorial governments and Inuit to enact measures so this iconic species has a chance to rebound."
Paul Crowley, WWF-Canada's vice-president of Arctic conservation, says:
"The people of Nunavut want caribou protected. An Environics survey commissioned by WWF-Canada showed that 77 per cent of northerners strongly support full protection for caribou calving grounds – including prohibiting industrial development. But the government of Nunavut, without consulting with communities, has recently changed its longstanding position that calving grounds need to be protected in the Land Use Plan. There is a strong disconnect between what the people of Northern Canada want and the actions of the government that represents them. Failing to create meaningful protections for caribou calving grounds puts the future of these herds at risk. There is an opportunity to get it right with the Nunavut Land Use Plan, and the new 'threatened' designation shows we cannot put it off any longer."
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