Twenty-nine years after the nuclear disaster occurred on 26 April 1986, when people had no choice but to live their homes, the wildlife seems to have claimed its territory at Chernobyl.
When the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster occurred almost thirty years ago in Ukraine, almost 116,000 residents in the area were evacuated and they never returned home. Cities and villages which are situated in the exclusion zone – about 1,600 square miles (4,143 square kilometres) – are now uninhabited, at least not by humans. For instance Pripyat, a city which almost 50,000 people used to call home, is but a ghost town nowadays.
According to the researchers, after the humans left, the animals roamed free through the city and village ruins. Wolves, roe deer, and wild boar seem to be thriving in this barren environment, as their population has grown over time, a study that was published in the journal Current Biology, stated.
Jim Smith, a professor of environmental science at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, believes that the animals benefited a lot from humans leaving the area, and even though radiation is not good, current statistics show that it is less harmful to the animal population, than human habitation, forestry, and agriculture is.
The exclusion zone is not only in Ukraine, but is actually situated on both Ukrainian and Belarusian territory. The Polessye State Radioecological Reserve in Belarus gave the data on the animals that live in the exclusion zone.
Wildlife population at Chernobyl was compared to that of the Belarus nature reserves, and researchers found that the number of animals living in the exclusion zone and the number of animals from the protection sites were was very much alike. The wolf population at Chernobyl was actually bigger than the one in the nature reserves.
There are 35 routes in Belarus which were tracked by Belarusian researchers between 2008 and 2010.
“We mapped out those routes and worked out the radioactive contamination density to see whether can we observe an influence of the radioactive contamination on the number of tracks we’re counting. And we couldn’t.” Smith stated.
Smith says that researchers do not deny the harm that radiation can do to the animals. However, overall, the animals seem to be thriving in the exclusion zone, which means that radiation did not negatively impact the majority of the wildlife.
Image Source: nationalgeographic