Wildlife thriving in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone

In 1986, the City of Chernobyl was evacuated following a catastrophic nuclear accident. An area known as the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a 1600 square mile area around the former Russian city, is teeming with life almost 30 years later.

Researchers set up 42 cameras around the Ukrainian side of the exclusion zone, with the intent to monitor the growth of wildlife in the area. What they captured on their cameras was surprising.

“If you take the terrible things that happened to the human population out of the equation, as far as we can see at this stage, the accident hasn’t done serious environmental damage, we’re not saying radiation is good for animals, but human habitation and exploitation of the landscape is worse.”

One of the byproducts of having no human presence is a thriving wolf population. In fact the population is several times higher than in non-contaminated wildlife preserves. In 2013, Belarus had to launch a special operation to stop exclusion zone wolves from raiding local farms.

The year long project comes to an end this December, and has already discovered many rare and endangered species including lynx, wild boar, and a rare Prezewalski’s horse.

European grey wolves
European grey wolves (Canis lupus lupus)
European Otter
European Otter (Lutra lutra)
Eurasian lynx
Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)
Wild boar
Wild boar (Sus scrofa)
Przewalski's horse
Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)

ImagesDr. Sergey Gaschak