On April 26, 1986, a power surge caused an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, Ukraine. A large quantity of radioactive material was released.
On May 2, 1986, the Soviet government established a “Zone of Alienation” or “Exclusion Zone” around Chernobyl – a thousand square miles of “radioactive wasteland.” All humans were evacuated. The town of Pripyat was completely abandoned.
But the animals didn’t leave. And a new study, published this month in Current Biology, suggests they are doing fine. “None of our three hypotheses postulating radiation damage to large mammal populations at Chernobyl were supported by the empirical evidence,” says Jim Beasley, one of the researchers.
In fact, some of the populations have grown. These photos (mostly taken by Valeriy Yurko) come from the Belarusian side of the Exclusion Zone, and area called the Polessye State Radioecological Reserve. Kingfisher, elk, boar, baby spotted eagles, wild ponies, moose, rabbits, and wolves all make their home in the park. In some ways, human presence is worse for wildlife than a nuclear disaster.
1986 Chernobyl - ZUFAROV/AFP/Getty Images
Wildlife photos - Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve
Ponies in winter - SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
The bio-robots of Chernobyl, liquidators tasked with the manual clean-up of heavily contaminated debris from the rooftop of reactor 4, since the RC vehicles originally sent were destroyed by the heavy radiation.
This was needed so the containment building, know as the sarcophagus, could be build around it.
All of them absorbed the maximum radiation a human can handle in a lifetime, some even a 100 times that, many died years latter, and the survivors now live a cripples as the radiation simply destroyed them, let us remember their sacrifices, the unsung heroes of one of the worst disasters humanity has ever seen.
A doll and a gas mask are pictured on a bed in one of the kindergarten of the ghost city of Pripyat on April 18, 2011. In the heart of Chernobyl, Ukrainian specialists regularly venture inside the concrete cover sheltering the ruined reactor after it exploded on April 26, 1986 to check its structure and radiation levels.
A recent viral video of a fox eating a stack of bread in Chernobyl has renewed attention to the wildlife in the radioactive exclusion zone.
Since the disaster in 1986, scientists have conducted research on the wildlife of the region to better understand the effect radiation has. With a future of nuclear power being a possibility, this is valuable knowledge.
Findings show that certain species have seen a higher number of genetic abnormalities than what would be normal, along with issues with breeding and reproduction. However Wildlife returned to the area quicker and stronger than expected.
Scientists have mentioned that after the radiation levels had subsided to “safer” levels, the lack of human presence has provided the opportunity for wildlife to thrive; with the benefits of no human contact outweighing the survival issues caused by the radiation.