In the wake of a cataclysmic nuclear disaster, Ukrainian animals were able to demonstrate how they could survive, breed, and restore their lost dominance, provided no presence of mankind was around to get in their way.
The Chernobyl Disaster
Thirty years ago, on April 26th, 1986, the largest accidental release of radiation in the whole history of nuclear power had taken place. The event happened in Chernobyl, a territory of the Ukraine which was then part of the Soviet Union. Right after the nuclear incident occurred, the evacuation of all inhabitants of the region began within a radius of 30 kilometers from the epicenter of the Reactor 4 explosion was carried out. Predominant northwest winds moved large masses of polluted air in the direction of Belarus, Russia, and beyond across the regions of Northern Europe. Three decades have passed since, and the subject of scientific studies still covers two main factors: the effect of extreme radioactive pollution to the vast natural territory (a 2,800-square-kilometer expanse) and the absence of human population in the affected areas. The radiation level in parts of the affected region is 10 to 30 times higher than acceptable norms.
To everyone who has left the CEZ (Chernobyl Evacuation Zone) by order of authorities, free apartments were given in the major cities of the Ukraine, as well as monetary compensation. Yet many were unable to adapt to the city life, and soon returned to their respective places. Apart from displaced folks, the CEZ is constantly visited by tourists, stalkers, and independent researchers. Ads are posted everywhere telling of the danger of staying in the contaminated area, and the yellow-black radiation icon is the most frequent symbol human eyes will meet in the area.
A Return To Nature
Scientists from Britain have cameras installed on the trees, and equipped the place with odor sources attractive to animal. To avoid errors when the same animals visit the hot spots, the distance of the cameras from each other was at least 3 kilometers. In addition to pictures of numerous inhabitants of Chernobyl fauna published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the scientists took samples of soil, traced the travel paths of animals on the trail and took probes of animal’s waste products.
What Wildlife Thrives At Chernobyl Today?
Involuntarily, the Chernobyl zone has become one of the biggest natural reserves of Europe. Was the worst nuclear accident less damaging to natural ecosystems than humans? Possibly so, considering wild boars, wolves, elks, bears, lynxes, white-tailed eagles, and many species of deer now thrive in the forests and picturesque meadows here. Scientists from Britain have cameras installed on the trees, and equipped the place with odor sources attractive to animals. To avoid errors when the same animals visit the hot spots, the distance of the cameras from each other was set at least 3 kilometers apart. In addition to pictures of numerous inhabitants of Chernobyl fauna published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the scientists took samples of soil, traced the travel paths of animals on the trail, and took probes of animal’s waste products. A bold experiment was set out upon in the years to follow the disaster when the area brought several individuals of the Przewalski's horse, and by the time these artiodactyls were under threat of annihilation. Surprisingly, by the end of 2015, based on the pictures and trace patterns scientists were able to draw conclusions of around a hundred of these once almost extinct horses grazing in the rich meadows of Chernobyl.
Ongoing Radioactive Threats
Thirty years is not only the landmark of tragedy, but also marks half of the validity period for the radioactive element Cesium 137, one of the main pollutants after the disaster. The following hundred years, the areas of Chernobyl would remain abandoned, where the removal of consequences of the accident would be done by shift workers and in compliance with all radiation safety regulations. Maps show the levels of contamination in the CEZ depends on where Plutonium and Cesium touched the surface of the earth.