More than 30 years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine became the world’s largest nuclear accident, life is vibrant and thriving. Dozens of species—wolves, boars, eagles and more—roam the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Though some mangled and deformed animal images from the CEZ fascinate and float around the internet, the healthy ones spotted here on remote cameras are more the norm.
Researchers at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory used 30 remote cameras tucked in 94 sites around the contaminated areas to find the wildlife. They put fatty acid scents at each spot to attract animals, particularly carnivores that are more susceptible to contamination through their high spot on the food chain.
The crew saw 14 species of mammals, most frequently the gray wolf, wild or Eurasian boar, red fox and raccoon dog native to East Asia and Europe. All were at stations near the most highly contaminated areas. They documented the different species in a study last year.
“We didn’t find any evidence to support the idea that populations are suppressed in highly contaminated areas,” said James Beasley, the lead study author and UGA professor. “What we did find was these animals were more likely to be found in areas of preferred habitat that have the things they need—food and water.”
As part of the project, the UGA researchers worked with the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire in France and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. Take a look at what they saw on the remote cameras.
Main photo by National Geographic Society
Carolyn Crist is a freelance health and science journalist for regional and national publications. She writes the Escape Artist column for Paste Travel, On the Mind column for Paste Science and Stress Test column for Paste Health.