Quirks & Quarks

Wildlife Thrive Around Chernobyl - Without Humans

Population of many wild animals, including large mammals, around the Chernobyl exclusion zone are higher than before the disaster, indicating that human impacts on population was more harmful than radiation.

Wildlife around the disaster site are in better shape without humans - despite radiation

Wild Boars in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Valeriy Yurko)
The meltdown and explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 will ultimately cause the deaths of thousands of people from radiation-related illnesses. It also resulted in the relocation of over one-hundred-thousand people from the so-called 'exclusion zone' - an area of over four thousand square kilometres.

Scientists hypothesized that the amount of radioactive contamination would be too much for many animals in the exclusion zone to overcome. But a new study by Dr. James Smith, a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Portsmouth, has found that the wildlife has rebounded.

The populations of elk, deer and wild boar match those of nearby nature reserves, and wolves are seven times more plentiful. Scientists conclude the recovery began about a year after the explosion and is due largely to the lack of human intervention.

Related Links

Paper in Current Biology
- University of Portsmouth release
National Geographic story
The Guardian story