30 Years After A Nuclear Disaster, Chernobyl Wildlife Is Thriving

30 Years After A Nuclear Disaster, Chernobyl Wildlife Is Thriving

In April of 1986, an accident at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine (in what was then the U.S.S.R.), destroyed a reactor and released massive amounts of radioactive material into the surrounding area. The radiation was powerful enough to contaminate parts of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, and a zone 30 kilometers (18 miles) around the plant was closed off to the public. It's been that way ever since: except for a few scientists and other officials, Chernobyl has seen virtually no human visitors.

But this tragedy has a bright side: the absence of human interference has led to a dramatic increase in wildlife. As reported by National Geographic, biologists performing a five-week survey of the area captured images of "a bison, 21 boars, nine badgers, 26 gray wolves, 60 raccoon dogs (an Asian species also called a tanuki), and 10 red foxes." Scientists studying the populations of wolves and other species have noticed similar trends. How well the animals are doing with the radiation levels is up for debate—though they appear healthy, more research is needed to determine if they're experiencing health effects at the genetic level. Delve into the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster in the videos below.

Nature Is Thriving In The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Meet the animals that have made their home in the disaster area.

Biology In Chernobyl

Follow the biologists who are studying wildlife populations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

05:11

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    The exclusion zone around Chernobyl has radiation levels that are too high for most species to tolerate. (1:32)

  • 2

    Some species of birds in the Chernobyl exclusion zone have exhibited tumors and other physical abnormalities, such as deformed beaks. (2:20)

  • 3

    Trees cut down near Chernobyl have a dramatic change in the color of their rings that corresponds with the year of the disaster. (3:28)

How Has Chernobyl Changed Since The Disaster?

Hear about some of the effects radiation has had on the area.

See all

Radiation

Radioactive Decay

Science

Temperature

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