In Chernobyl nuclear zone, animals thrive without humans

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
23 PHOTOS
NTP: Animals taking over abandoned Chernobyl
See Gallery
In Chernobyl nuclear zone, animals thrive without humans
A white-tailed eagle sits on the roof of an abandoned school near the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, in the abandoned village of Tulgovichi, Belarus, January 29, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone", roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A yellowhammer is seen on the remains of a house at the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Orevichi, Belarus, March 12, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A fox walks through the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Babchin, Belarus, March 5, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
An abandoned house is seen in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, January 28, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A woodpecker looks out of a hollow in a tree in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Babchin, Belarus, April 3, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
An otter swims in a river in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Pogonnoe, Belarus, March 13, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A golden eagle approaches the remains of an elk in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Babchin, Belarus, March 16, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A black stork flies through the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, April 2, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A wolf crosses a road in a forest in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, April 2, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A tawny owl leaves a chimney in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Kazhushki, Belarus, March 16, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Elks are seen in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, January 28, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Ruined farm's buildings are seen in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Pogonnoe, Belarus, March 13, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A wolf looks into the camera at the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Orevichi, Belarus, March 2, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. Photo taken with trail camera. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A magpie flies over a barbed wire fence at the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Babchin, Belarus, February 18, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Hunters drag wolves killed in a field outside of the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, near the village of Khrapkov, Belarus, January 27, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Wolves walk in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Orevichi, Belarus, February 25, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. Photo taken with trail camera. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Bisons are seen at a bison nursery in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, January 28, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Bisons are seen at a bison nursery in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, January 28, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A white-tailed eagle lands on a wolf's carcass in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, February 15, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
An elk runs in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, near the village of Babchin, Belarus, January 27, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A radiation sign is seen in the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, February 11, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
A World War Two monument is seen near the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, near the village of Babchin, Belarus, January 26, 2016. What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue. On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smouldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe. Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

CHERNOBYL EXCLUSION ZONE, Belarus, April 6 (Reuters) - What happens to the environment when humans disappear? Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, booming populations of wolf, elk and other wildlife in the vast contaminated zone in Belarus and Ukraine provide a clue.

On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, sent clouds of smoldering radioactive material across large swathes of Europe.

SEE ALSO: Town still healing 30 years after the Chernobyl disaster

Over 100,000 people had to abandon the area permanently, leaving native animals the sole occupants of a cross-border "exclusion zone" roughly the size of Luxembourg.

In the Belarussian part of the zone, tumble-down villages marked with yellow and red radiation warning signs have become hunting grounds for predators such as wolves and hawks. Birds, including tawny owls and magpies, nest in the roofs and chimneys of abandoned buildings.

"People can never live there - it's impossible - not even for the next 24,000 years," Ukrainian Ecology Minister Hanna Vronska said of the zone, which encompasses 2,600 sq km (1,000 square miles) of forest, marsh and open countryside.

The long-term impact of the radiation on animal populations is a subject of intense debate because scientists have struggled to untangle the positive effects of human absence from the negative effects of living in a poisoned environment.

Despite the radiation, wolf numbers are over seven times higher in the Belarussian part of the zone compared with uncontaminated areas elsewhere, according to a study published in scientific journal Current Biology last October.

Some wolves have taken to straying outside the zone to steal calves from nearby farms, prompting hunters to set traps or shoot them as a deterrent.

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Teems With Animals

International donors have funded the building of a 30,000 tonne "safe confinement" arch to prevent more deadly particles spewing from the stricken nuclear reactor's site for the next 100 years. Nevertheless, nothing can be done to decontaminate trees and soil that suffered the worst of the nuclear fallout within a 30-km radius of the plant.

In March, Vronska said authorities were considering turning the uninhabitable zone into a biosphere to protect and study its native animal populations in what would be the largest nature reserve in Europe. There are also plans to use parts of the area to store nuclear waste and for solar power.

Special government permits, usually valid for a few days, are required for anyone wishing to visit the exclusion zone from the Belarussian side. Roads going into the zone are guarded to prevent any unauthorized person entering.

While the rules of access are also strict on the Ukrainian side, small tour groups can visit sites within the zone, including the "ghost town" of Pripyat.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners