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Wolf and elk in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Pictures by Sergey Gaschak.

THE RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT ZONE HAS TURNED INTO A REFUGE

After 300,000 people had to abondon Chernobyl after the catastrophic nuclear accident in 1986, wildlife have been thriving in the area - including large packs of wolves. Fields, villages and towns are replaced with forests and wetlands, and the fallout zone is now the largest wildlife sanctaury in Europe. 

Despite the radioactivity in the area, animals seem to be as good as unafected, and the wildlife of Chernobyl is considered healthy. Journalist Mary Mycio writes:

According to all the population counts performed by Ukraine and Belarus over the past 27 years, there is enormous animal diversity and abundance. The prevailing scientific view of the exclusion zone has become that it is an unintentional wildlife sanctuary. This conclusion rests on the premise that radiation is less harmful to wildlife populations than we are.”

Read the rest of Mary Mycio’s story about Chernobyl’s wildlife

Watch the rest of Sergey Gaschak’s gallery of Chernobyl’s wildlife

Thorold’s Deer (Cervus albirostris)

Also sometimes known as the white-lipped deer, Thorold’s deer is a threatened species of deer that is endemic to the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Thorold’s deer typically inhabit grassland, shrubland and high altitude forests.  Like other deer C. albirostris is mainly crepuscular and lives in small herds of around ten animals. They are grazers and will feed on a wide range of plants, notably grasses and sedges. However they will eat larger plats like willows and rhododendrons as well.

Currently Cervus albirostris is listed as threatened and faces threats from habitat loss and hunting. 

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Mammalia-Artiodactyla-Cervidae-Cervinae-Cervus-C. albirostris

Image: Greg Geobel

Irish elk. The antlers reached 10 feet high at the tips and 12 fucking feet across. 

(via EXTINCT MONSTERS by REV. H. N. HUTCHINSON, B.A., F.G.S. via Project Gutenberg)

edit: it has been pointed out it’s not a true elk, actually a giant-ass deer; and also not at all exclusive to Eire but many specimens found in the bogs there

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Marsh Deer (Blastocerus dichotomus)

…a large (the largest on their continent) species of deer (Cervidae) which is native to South America, where it occurs in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. True to their common names, marsh deer typically inhabit wet marshy areas like the patanal and gran chaco. They are noted swimmers and can move through the water quite rapidly. Marsh deer feed on a wide variety of aquatic plants (some studies have documented over 40 different species!) with members of Graminae and Pontederiaceae making up most of their diet. 

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Mammalia-Artiodactyla-Cervidae-Odocoileinae-Blastocerus-B. dichotomus

Images: Jonathan Wilkins and Leonel Baldoni

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