A herd of caribou in Val-d’Or, Que., welcomed a new member last week, marking the first birth in the region’s protected enclosure and offering a glimmer of hope for the dwindling population in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.
In an attempt to save the species amid a decline in caribou populations in several regions of Quebec, the province built maternity enclosures in Charlevoix, the Gaspé and in Val-d’Or last year. The new calf brings the total number of caribou in Val-d’Or to seven after one died over the winter of unknown causes.
The minister for forests, wildlife and parks, Pierre Dufour, says the new addition to the herd is cause for cautious optimism.
“The different protection areas we made to protect and help the caribou with some specific meals and all these stuff” shows that helping save the species is possible,” he said. “It’s encouraging.”
But Alice-Anne Simard, director of Nature Quebec, says while maternity enclosures are a good start, it’s going to take more measures for the province’s caribou population to survive in the long run.
“The main threat to the caribou survival is logging in their habitat, especially cutting down mature forests” she said, noting that stricter measures must be applied to felling trees.
The key factors to bolstering survival of the species are slowing down logging activities in caribou habitats, restoring their natural habitats and putting a stop to the development of logging roads, according to Simard.
“It’s a good thing to have one calf born this year, but we have to understand that there are only six caribou left in Val-d’Or … we still have a long way to go to have a full recovery of the herd,” she said.
Simard says the enclosures are a temporary solution to keep the caribou population from going extinct, but it’s a “measure of the last resort” and the herd will go extinct if no other measures are put in place.
“This is not enough. We cannot just let the caribou live in the enclosure,” she said.
Dufour says more measures regarding caribou conservation are expected at the end of the month.