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Wildlife Of Chernobyl

Wildlife can flourish in the most extreme places; including within the exclusion zone of the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever seen, Chernobyl. In 1986, a reactor exploded in the Ukrainian nuclear facility.

A deadly fire raged for days, claiming the lives of 31 men who were first on the scene. Since then, potentially many thousands more lives have been lost from the effects of radiation. At the time of the disaster, 600,000 workers arrived to help clean the contamination on-site and in the surrounding area. Chernobyl was declared too radioactively dangerous for full time human habitation for at least 24,000 years, and a thousand square mile exclusion zone was put into place, meaning the towns and villages near Chernobyl were abandoned. Although tourists are permitted to make day trips today, with no human residents in 30 years, wildlife has reclaimed the land.
It’s thought the lack of human interference counteracts any negative effects of radiation on the wild population.

Wolves, foxes and bears are all commonplace. Dogs roam the abandoned streets, descended from pets that were left behind 30 years ago. And in the 1990’s the endangered Przewalski’s horse was introduced to the area as part of a conservation program.

Although the long-term effect on most animals in the exclusion zone is unknown, 8 feet long catfish in the area’s radioactive cooling ponds have been spotted. It’s not yet known if they’ve grown so big because of changes to their DNA, or simply because of a lack of fishing.

There are still many unknowns about the long-term effects on the wildlife of Chernobyl, but it certainly makes for a fascinating place to see animals in this unique, unintended nature reserve.

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Post Series: Ukraine
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