Home Science Environment Wildlife Found in Abundance at Chernobyl

Wildlife Found in Abundance at Chernobyl

It has been discovered that humans are more deadly to wildlife then nuclear disasters. The first long-term study at Chernobyl has raised some questions about the effect human activity has on nature.

In the wake of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant meltdown in 1986, the former Soviet-Communist regime set up the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) — which covers 1600 square miles (4200 square kilometers). At the time, 116,000 people were forced to flee their homes and never return again.

An abandoned house near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster area. (Image: Valeriy Yurko)
An abandoned house near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster area. (Image: Valeriy Yurko/EurekAlert!)

Dr. Tatiana Deryabina, from the Polessye State Radioecological Reserve in Belarus, is the lead author of the study and said in a statement: “I’ve been working, studying, and taking photos of the wonderful wildlife in the Chernobyl area for over 20 years, and am very pleased our work is reaching an international scientific audience.”

A group of scientists from around the world, coordinated by Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, have found that after 30 years, the Chernobyl site looks more like a nature reserve than a disaster zone.

Roe deer near where the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster took place. (Image: Valeriy Yurko)
Roe deer near where the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster took place. (Image: Valeriy Yurko/EurekAlert!)

Dr. Jim Beasley of the University of Georgia, and a co-author on the paper, said: “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.”

Within the exclusion zone, researchers have found animal populations are thriving in the region, with an abundance of elk, roe deer, red deer, and wild boar. Their numbers are similar to that of nature reserves in the region, and the number of wolves in and around the Chernobyl site are more than seven times greater than in nature reserves.

Wild boar in a former village near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (Image: Valeriy Yurko)
A herd of wild boars in an abandoned village near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (Image: Valeriy Yurko/EurekAlert!)

“We know that radiation can be harmful in very high doses, but research on Chernobyl has shown that it isn’t as harmful as many people think. There have been many reports of abundant wildlife at Chernobyl, but this is the first large-scale study to prove how resilient they are,” Smith said in a statement.

It’s very likely that wildlife numbers at Chernobyl are much higher than they were before the accident.

“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,” he added.

Helicopter surveys revealed that populations of elk, roe deer, and wild boar were on the rise between 1 and 10 years after the nuclear accident. The wild boar population at one point dropped, but it was found to be from a disease outbreak that was unrelated to radiation exposure.

The researchers conclude: “These results demonstrate for the first time that — regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals — the CEZ supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposure.”

Professor Tom Hinton of Fukushima University in Japan, the site of the second-worst nuclear disaster, is co-author of the study. He said: “These remarkable data from Chernobyl will help us understand the potential long-term environmental impact of the Fukushima accident.”

LIKE us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

Most Popular

US Commerce Department Bans Investments in Chinese Military-Backed Companies

On Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive order barring investments in private companies with close ties to Chinese military, intelligence,...

4 Tips on How to Teach Kids Generosity During the Holidays

The Christmas holiday season is upon us and it will soon be time for celebrations, gift-giving, and other happy occasions. For many parents, this...

A Chinese Entrepreneur Predicts His Tragic Ending

In 1985, Sun Dawu, who has become a Chinese entrepreneur, and his wife started their business with a thousand chickens and 50 pigs. Ten...

Researchers Find Connection Between Household Chemicals and Gut Microbiome

A team of researchers for the first time has found a correlation between the levels of bacteria and fungi, the gut microbiome, in the...