Anthrax outbreak on Yamal PENINSULA, not Tarko Sale PUROVSKI Yamal Okrug!

The Siberian Times and other english language sites report about the recent anthrax outbreak among reindeer in West Siberia in a slight geographical confusion . Ignore the maps in this Siberian times article. We are actually witnessing this on the YAMAL PENINSULA close to the FAKTORIYA (trading post) Tarko Sale, which is close to the Yaro To lake around 300 km Northeast of the regional capital Salekhard.

Base map from yandex maps. Tarko Sale trading post (Faktoriya) on the Yamal Peninsula

This is not to be confused with the other (bigger) Tarko Sale, administrative centre of the Purovski District in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The proper location and latest news about this can be found here for example.
I have myself moved together with private herders around the Yaro To lake. The location is an important passway for many reindeer nomads, used in all seasons: The nomads with the furthest longest migration routes use it in early May, just before calving time, moving up North in spring towards their summer pastures. The second “wave” of herders use this location as a summer site, where they group with several households uniting many small herds into a big one for withstanding mosquito harrassment. People stay close to the Yaro To lake for fishing there in summer. In autumn the site is again used as a passway for herders returning from their summer pastures south heading towards the slaughtering sites in the south of the Yamal Peninsula. In winter, some private herders use the site and get supplies from the trading post in Tarko Sale. If you are interested in more detail on these migration routes and nomadic seasonality, you can have a look at chapter 3 of this book, or a part of this chapter.
This shows that the place is very intensively used. Due to the high mobility of herders using this site, utmost care has to be taken for preventing of anthrax being spread all over the Yamal Peninsula.

3 thoughts on “Anthrax outbreak on Yamal PENINSULA, not Tarko Sale PUROVSKI Yamal Okrug!

  1. Stephan Dudeck

    Barents Observer corrected their geographical mistake already on my request.
    It seems that there were more cases of anthrax between the last officially recognised case in 1941.:
    mentioned for instance in this blog from February 2012:
    “Have you lost any reindeer personally?” I asked.
    “Yes,” Radik replied. “We lost several to anthrax. Anthrax used to be a big problem here but under the Soviet Union all reindeer were vaccinated every year and eventually it was wiped out. Last year Gazprom built an underground gas pipeline though and it unearthed the anthrax virus. In every brigade that’s crossed it several reindeer have died with the exact symptoms of anthrax. And you know, anthrax can kill people too. The remains of chums still stand on the Yamal where entire brigades, reindeer and people, were wiped out by it. Soviet policy was not to go near those chums and no one has to this day.”

  2. Stephan Dudeck

    In some media (like German ‘Spiegel’) the Nenets burial custom was mentioned as a suspect of causing the epidemic as the deceased are not buried under the earth. I have the feeling that this is a strategy of some people to blame indirectly Nenets themselves for causing the outbreak of anthrax through their “exotic” customs. I think places, where people died from Anthrax are known in Nenets oral history and usually avoided for generations (at least the 100 years, that spores are dangerous). Does anybody know arguments pro and contra the thesis that this Nenets traditions could have provoked the outbreak? Or is there support that melting of permafrost caused it?

  3. fstammle

    Yes, it’s a shame that these connections between Nenets burial customs and anthrax outbreaks are so easily made without good enough evidence. Most sources say that it’s caused by the unusual heat wave over a long time that has caused the spores to “wake up” from the permafrost. If that is the case, then even underground burying customs would not have helped! So what’s the point of linking Nenets exotic customs to this? In the news they said in a somewhat Soviet style that the Nenets buried their deceased over ground in the past, as if this was a backward custom that they had now overcome. Well meant, but not quite right factually and not quite the direction we want analytically. Neither would we think of this custom backward, nor is it a thing of the past. Nor thirdly are you supposed to take photographs of Nenets burial grounds in the first place, and put them on the Net as they did here ( I was told this is a measure for protection of the photographer, so that the spirits would not get upset at such people.

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