WASHINGTON, December 12, 2022— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected the Dolphin and Union caribou today as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This specific population of barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) — also known as reindeer — inhabits the Arctic regions of Canada’s northern territories. The endangered listing restricts trade in Dolphin and Union caribou in the United States.
Dolphin and Union caribou are threatened primarily by climate change and hunting pressure. The population must cross sea ice to migrate from its wintering grounds to calving grounds on Victoria Island. Tragically, caribou have fallen through the ice during this migration because of inadequate sea-ice formation.
“It’s deeply saddening that our failure to address the climate crisis and other threats has caused these animals to suffer such a drastic decline,” said Dianne DuBois, a staff scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Thankfully, protection under the Endangered Species Act gives Santa’s famous helpers a much-needed lifeline.”
The Service originally proposed listing Dolphin and Union caribou as only threatened. However, following comments submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity indicating that the population had experienced a staggering decline of 75% in just four years, the Service found the population is endangered and merits stronger protections.
“I’m grateful that the Service acknowledged Dolphin and Union caribou are at risk of extinction and gave the population the Endangered Species Act’s strongest protections,” said DuBois. “I hope the agency also uses every resource available to tackle the climate crisis and ensure these animals’ ancient migration for years to come.”
The climate crisis is expected to continue impacting Dolphin and Union caribou in several ways. The decline in sea-ice formation has also led to an increase in shipping traffic within the population’s range, and a warming climate has brought more industrial activity to the area.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.