Wildlife Thrives in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone After Thousands of Humans Left

The disaster zone of the Chernobyl site has inadvertently been turned into a nature reserve, according to a paper published in Current Biology. Elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, and wolves have apparently increased in numbers. The researchers put forward a terrifying idea: nuclear radiation is not as detrimental to life as the actions of men are.

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A “radioactive” sign outside a café in an abandoned city found in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Photo credits: VOA Photo/D. Markosian.

Millions and millions of different species of animals and plants are made to thrive on our planet. However, when man comes into the equation, the balance sometimes gets disrupted. Indeed, man is notorious for destroying life. Now, it appears that their departure from a patch of Earth might have actually been beneficial for other living organisms.

As a matter of fact, after thousands of people had to leave the surrounding regions of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the aftermath of the disaster that occurred back in 1986, animals such as elk, roe deer, and wolves have been flourishing again in the Exclusion Zone.

“It’s very likely that wildlife numbers at Chernobyl are much higher than they were before the accident,” says Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth in the UK. “This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming, and forestry, are a lot worse.”

Previous studies carried out on the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone revealed that wildlife populations decreased drastically. New evidence is showing a different trend: mammal populations are increasing now.

The number of elk, roe deer, red deer, and wild boar in this region are currently similar to that in 4 uncontaminated nature reserves in the area. Furthermore, wolves in and around the Chernobyl site are seven times more numerous than in the reserves.

It is also said that the wild boar community decreased in number because of a disease and not because of exposure to radiation.

Wildlife seems to have recovered well. The findings indeed attest to their resilient nature.

“These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposure,” write the researchers.

“These unique data showing a wide range of animals thriving within miles of a major nuclear accident illustrate the resilience of wildlife populations when freed from the pressures of human habitation,” says Jim Beasley, a study co-author at the University of Georgia.

According to the authors, their findings also constitute lessons involving the potential long-term effects of the Fukushima disaster that occurred recently in Japan.

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