While residents of Yakutia were preparing for the New Year holidays, in the far Finnish Rovaniemi the Finnish Academy Arctico hosted the final seminar where the Arctic Ark team presented their work of the last four years in the field of relations between people and animals.
Arctic Ark (Human-animal adaptations to the Arctic Environment - Natural and folk selection practices; 2015-2018) gathered not only scientists, but also cattle breeders, reindeer herders, hunters, horse breeders. The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) was represented by an extensive team from the Eveno-Bytantaysky and Namsky districts, and the city of Yakutsk. One of the participants, a NEFU post-graduate student and sociologist Elvira Mikhailova, shares her impressions of the trip and participation in the seminar.
“I was given the opportunity to share the results and the course of work of our public organization, Terut Baai for the conservation and increase of the livestock of the Yakut aboriginal cattle, which has been doing its work on a voluntary basis for the past 5 years. We had something to tell, share and surprise. Despite the difficulties, of course, we feel the support of the people, we understand what an important task we are trying to solve. During the seminar, very good news came from Yakutsk that the Decree of the Head of the RS (Y) “On the strategic directions of agricultural development in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).”
During the seminar, very good news came from Yakutsk that the Decree of the Head of the RS (Y) “On the strategic directions of agricultural development in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)” included a clause on removing the Yakut cattle population from threatening status. The seminar participants met this news with great enthusiasm. We are very grateful to the leadership of the Republic, headed by Il Darkhan Aisen Nikolaev, that we are finally heard and the work begins to receive political support, which is the most important at this stage,” said Elvira Mikhailova.
During the seminar, many practical issues were revealed, as it turned out, foreigners are interested in everything related to care, feeding and maintenance, slaughter up to the national methods for determining the milkability and many other things. In our team from Yakutia there were practitioners with great experience, it was not so difficult for them to answer all the questions. For example, it was Svetlana Dmitrievna Sleptsova from the village of Sakkyryr, who, even when retired, still tends for over 20 heads of Yakut cattle together with her son Afanasy.
Of course, besides those concerning livestock, questions were raised both on reindeer herding, and on herd horse breeding, and even on wild animals: wolves and bears. It is gratifying that our team included great professionals, practitioners who devoted their lives to their work. The seminar was very interesting and informative.
There was even a tasting event for dishes from Yakutia, which amazed foreign scientists with the variety and high taste characteristics of dishes. And how did they manage to carry several kinds of meat, fish, caviar, jams, berries, and even the rose bay tea so far in the baggage? And really, it looks like a miracle.
The work of the Arctic Ark team, led by Professor of Animal Genetics Juha Kantanen, showed the seminar participants that there really is something very specific to the breeds of Arctic animals compared to other animals of the same breeds, but from the south. For example, Juha Kantanen showed that Sakha Ynaga (Yakut aboriginal cattle), Kholmogory and Lapland cattle are genetically more similar to each other than to the most dominant in the world milk breed of cattle – Holstein. Only 5% of the genes that they found expressed in their mRNA analysis (matrix ribonucleic acid – ed. note) were shared with Holstein.
In general, supporting the system of human existence in the Arctic, using local animals, will require less resources from the south. The use of resources of Arctic breeds of animals has a fundamental meaning, since they are cheaper, less subject to stress, more resistant to natural and socio-economic changes compared to the import of highly specialized breeds of animals of high performance. And they produce enough products to support people in extreme climatic conditions.
Publications about this are being prepared by Juha Kantanen and the team - Stefan Dadek, Anna Gossmann-Stammler, Nuccio Mazzullo, Florian Stammler, and also together with our local colleagues Aytalina Ivanova, Ruslan Popov, Innokenty Ammosov.
Speaking in a simple way, we again try to talk about the obvious in a scientific language, that in the North it is much more profitable to maintain and breed local animals, rather than to import highly productive southern breeds of animals. It is a pity that foreigners are telling us about this, after a series of expensive, costly research, although the truth seems to be on the surface.
The work of foreign scientists with reindeer herders, horse breeders and cattle breeders in Lapland, the Arkhangelsk Region and Yakutia showed that northern animals have similar, very valuable characteristics, such as independence and require very low levels of human care, compared to more southern animals. In addition, many of the northern animals (the Yakut horse and the Yakut aboriginal cow) are able to roam and search for their food, even when grazing occurs on very limited pasture resources. Imported breeds of livestock animals, such as Holstein cattle or Arabian horses, could not survive on such resources. And, in particular, they will not be able to graze on pastures covered with snow. This is what our Yakut animals can, which do not need to be fed at temperatures up to minus 60 degrees.
During the seminar, participants also had the opportunity to visit the solo exhibition of the Finnish artist Anna Osva, who dedicated their works to Sakha Ynaga. The artist expressed a keen desire to visit Yakutia and present her works in the homeland of this amazing animal. Her drawings are really beautiful, combining modern multimedia technologies, photographing, watercolor, oil. The cows seemed to float out of the snow and frost, passed through the forest past the astonished visitors of the exhibition, looked thoughtfully from the canvases, or only silhouettes of cows lit up with mysterious lights, in general, there was something to admire.
“Let 2019 be a very productive and successful for Sakha Ynaga, which will be achieved largely due to the support of your new Il Darkhan!” Finnish Santa Claus from Rovaniemi wished.
And finally, I’ll note that the Finns cannot only work productively, but also have a good rest. So, every evening at dinner, gathering in a friendly company at a beautifully decorated and satisfying table, the participants could continue their discussions, share their impressions and observations. I take this opportunity to thank Anna Stammler-Gossman and Ulyana Alekseyevna Vinokurova for inviting me to the seminar.