Rein­deer app help­ing driv­ers steer clear of wan­der­ing an­i­mals

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Ro­vaniemi, Fin­land

There’s good news for Ru­dolph and his friends — an app is help­ing of­fi­cials re­duce the num­ber of rein­deer killed in traf­fic ac­ci­dents in Fin­land.

Some 300,000 rein­deer freely wan­der the wilds of La­p­land in Arc­tic Fin­land. An es­ti­mated 4,000 are killed ev­ery year through road ac­ci­dents, of­fi­cials say, and com­pen­sa­tion to rein­deer herders can be ex­pen­sive.

Most of the ac­ci­dents oc­cur dur­ing the dark win­ter months when the an­i­mals are hard to spot.

Sev­eral meth­ods to cut road­kill have failed, in­clud­ing spray-paint­ing antlers with flu­o­res­cent col­ors, hang­ing re­flec­tors on rein­deer necks and us­ing mov­able traf­fic signs.

In their lat­est at­tempt, of­fi­cials are us­ing a smart­phone app called “Porokello”, Fin­nish for “Rein­deer Bell”.

And it seems to be work­ing — at least last month, when there were 300 less rein­deer ac­ci­dents on the roads of Fin­nish La­p­land com­pared to the same month last year.

Ac­cord­ing to Jaakko Yli­nampa, head of a lo­cal busi­ness cen­ter in Ro­vaniemi, the big­gest town in La­p­land near the Arc­tic Cir­cle, the app helps cut costs for herders.

A sim­ple, one-but­ton in­ter­face al­lows driv­ers to tap their smart­phone screens to regis­ter any rein­deer spot­ted near roads. Us­ing GPS tech­nol­ogy, it cre­ates a 1.5-kilo­me­ter warn­ing zone that lasts for an hour and warns other app users approaching the area.

“If there are rein­deer, (driv­ers) re­duce speed,” Yli­nampa said. “When they have passed the warn­ing place, then they can get back to the nor­mal speed again.”

Rein­deer of­ten wan­der onto roads that cut across graz­ing grounds rather than plow­ing through the deep snow, said Anna-Leena Jankala, whose fam­ily has a rein­deer farm in Narkaus, 40 kilo­me­ters south of Ro­vaniemi.

When fe­male rein­deer are killed, it can be par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing to herders, set­ting them back years de­spite gov­ern­ment com­pen­sa­tion.

“In prac­tice, it’s not pos­si­ble to buy a sim­i­lar rein­deer, you need to raise it,” Jankala said.

How­ever, Maria Ti­moHuh­tala, who helped de­velop the app, em­pha­sizes that driv­ers shouldn’t be­come too re­liant on the app.

“It’s im­por­tant for the driv­ers to un­der­stand that there might a rein­deer even if there is not a warn­ing,” she said.

“We have quite well cov­ered the roads in La­p­land with the sys­tem, but it’s still not 100 per­cent.”

rein­deer are killed each year through road ac­ci­dents in Fin­land.

CAR­LOS BARRIA / REUTERS

US first lady Michelle Obama wel­comes stu­dents from across the coun­try to the White House Kitchen Gar­den in Wash­ing­ton in June this year.

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