Almost thirty years on from the worst nuclear disaster in history, scientists have confirmed that the exclusion zone in Chernobyl is now thriving with wildlife. A survey of the huge forested area around the stricken plant has revealed that it is flourishing with large animals such elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar and wolves despite being contaminated with radioactive fallout.
Since the disaster, more than 116,000 residents were evacuated from the zone around Chernobyl, which covers about 1,622 square miles, with only key construction workers and nuclear staff allowed into the site to safeguard the stricken reactors. The lack of human activity in the exclusion zone has benefited the wildlife of the region more than any possible damage it may have suffered as a result of coming into contact with radioactive elements, the researchers said. Although the study did not reveal or show how much of the radiation is affecting animal life.
The population of several animals in the area are now even higher than before the disaster occurred. The wolf population is now seven times higher than the local nature reserves before the Chernobyl incident.
The study is the first real census of wild animals in the exclusion zone. It relies on a decades worth of helicopter observations in the years right after the disaster, and three winters of scientists carefully counting animal tracks on foot between 2008 and 2010 in the Belarusian section of the zone, and careful photography.