SunSpecial: Arctic Tide-ings   Leave a comment

As every Christmas season, once again it’s time for our annual interview with ‘Randolph’, the North Pole Reindeer. He always has interesting – and sometimes surprising – insights to share about reindeer and their world. Due to North Pole secrecy (and trademark restrictions) he can’t be forthcoming with every answer…but with some imagination, it’s easy to understand what he’s saying.

Ecovia: So Rudol…uh, Randolph, how is everything at the North Pole this year?

‘Randolph’: Hello! As usual, it’s quite busy. Of course there’s the planning and packing in preparation for the Big Guys’ trip, just a few days away now – the shipping department can barely keep up – but for us reindeer it’s all about storing energy and working out. There’s the impression we’re all inside a heated barn eating hay and sugarplums, but that’s made up for the prime time specials. Reindeer actually eat Lichen (Cladonia portentosa) and Moss (Cladonia rangiferina), plants that grow on rocks and have to be found a little at a time. Besides, where would all that ‘hay’ come from? Food isn’t that easy to find up here.

E: At least you’re getting your fresh vegetables!

R: Sure. You know, lichen isn’t a vegetable, but a type of fungus. Fungus aren’t plants or animals but are so different they have any entire category just to themselves. Mushrooms, that you might eat, are a fungus, and so is the yeast the bakers here use to make cookies. Of course a fungus can also grow on old poop, so I don’t know what to say about that.

E: That is certainly an interesting diet. I don’t know how I’d like to eat the same thing every day.

R: You get used to it. The moss and lichen provides all the nutrients we need, and can be quite tasty and healthy, too. But it’s a low-energy food, so we have to eat quite a lot. Some of our deer-cousins, like lowland deer and elk, couldn’t survive on our food. That doesn’t make us better or special, just suited to our native environment. Full disclosure, at times we do get a sugarplum or cookie as a special treat. My favorites are the cookies shaped like trees, with green icing and sugar sparkle.

E: That does sound tasty. To get serious for a moment, ‘down south’ where most of us people live we’re hearing desperate reports about Arctic ice melting; warmer temperatures; polar bears not being able to find food; and so on. How does this effect you and the other animals?

R: I have to say we reindeer that work for the ‘Big Guy’ aren’t out there, in the real world, where animals have to fight to survive every day and one meal or a bad storm is all that separates a healthy life from sickness or death. But temperatures are warmer these past years than any time anyone remembers. It feels like it stays warmer just few more days each year, and we find different types of plants growing where we hadn’t seen them before. But that just means there’s more to eat!

E: It sounds like warmer-climate plants are trying to ‘move in’ to the area. Soon you might have to share with those lowland deer and elk!

R: They haven’t seen one of our winters. We have a saying “How can heat understand cold?”. I can’t say how the polar bears are doing – obviously we don’t hang out together – but for any animal that relies on ice to survive – they rest and sleep on floating ice, you know – these past years must be tough. If there’s no ice for the bears or the seals, or the walrus, too, they will be forced to stay in the water. Even though they’re good swimmers, no one can swim forever. For the first time ocean waves are mostly liquid, rather than slushy ice. Some animals would like to move away to where it’s safer, but once you’re at the North Pole, there isn’t anywhere else to go.

E: Sad and disturbing to hear. Can anything be done to help?

R: I think that’s up to humans. I don’t know what you’re doing, but it isn’t working out that well for us animals.

E: Many people are still wondering what the problem is, ourselves. Some people say it’s all normal and there’s nothing to be concerned about.

R: “How can heat understand cold?”. That’s all I have to say.

E: Last year we were concerned about a nasal allergy that seemed to be turning your nose red. Has that cleared up?

R: Taking meds. Next question?

E: Just one last thought: Does the ‘Big Guy’ ever share those cookies and treats he finds waiting for him during his deliveries?

R: Not as many as you’d think. Just look at the guy, and think about who’s doing the real work pulling that sleigh across the world?

E: Well, that’s an interesting thought to wrap up – get it? – this years interview.

R: Sure. Always good to share with the people down south. And if any of your readers have questions, send them in and I’ll do my best to reply. Happy Holidays to all, and may your sleigh-loads be light!

Reindeer_Wiki_Rangifer_tarandus AUTOGPH

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