ExxonMobil has offered a helping hand to an initiative aimed at supporting sled dog numbers on Russia's Sakhalin Island after the US supermajor opted to withdraw sponsorship of a famous sled dog race in Alaska.

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The operator of the ExxonMobil-led Sakhalin 1 consortium, Exxon Neftegaz, has sponsored a local initiative to restore the population of sled dogs that have traditionally been used by residents on the remote island in the far east of the country.

A recent three-day seminar was aimed at educating sled dog enthusiasts and sharing experiences of breeding so called Gilyatskaya sled dogs, which are indigenous to Sakhalin Island.

The goal of the initiative is to open a dedicated sled dog kennel in the Sakhalin town of Korsakov to bolster efforts from a few dog enthusiasts to stop the Gilyatskaya breed and its close relative, the Sakhalin Husky, from becoming extinct.

The dog enthusiasts regularly face challenges in securing enough funding to feed their packs and a lack of public interest towards sled dog riding, as these animals require hours of physical exercise each day to keep them in good health.

In the US, ExxonMobil has been a sponsor of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race since 1978. However, it has recently received pressure from a shareholder and the race’s biggest critic, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, according to newswire AP.

The Iditarod called ExxonMobil a “great partner” in the race as well as the Iditarod Education programme, but said in a statement: “After careful review of sponsorships in light of current economic conditions, they have decided to conclude their sponsorship of the Iditarod following the 2021 race.”