BY: ROB HOFFMAN
Recent surveys of the thriving animal population within Chernobyl’s disaster zone rekindles the awkward truth that if humans were to disappear from the face of the planet, it would likely be the greatest turn of events that Earth could have possibly hoped for.
A new study released by Current Biology used a helicopter and 42 strategically placed cameras to gather information about the state of wildlife within the exclusion zone from the 1986 nuclear disaster. The team was surprised to find out that the population of wildlife within the exclusion zone is so high that it even rivals that of the surrounding nature reserves. In fact, the study found seven times the number of wolves in the disaster zone than there were in surrounding areas.
According to The Telegraph, approximately 116,000 people were forced out of the radiation-soaked 1,600 square miles that were surveyed on the Ukraine and Belarus border. What was once a relatively high-population area teeming with industry and human life has since become a human-free oasis for countless wild animals, the only creatures legally admitted to run free in the area.
In an interview with The Guardian, environmental science professor Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth said, “What we do, our everyday habitation of an area – agriculture, forestry – they’ve damaged wildlife more than the world’s worst nuclear accident.”
In the wake of the evacuation, rare animal species like the European lynx and brown bear finally seem comfortable returning to the area. Other animals thriving in the zone include a majestic plethora of elk, deer, wild boar and foxes.
As noted by The Guardian, however, a few skeptics have made statements that Chernobyl’s disaster zone is not an isolated incident of wildlife increase— rather, their populations are flourishing across Europe as a whole. Still, the more uncomfortable truth behind the investigation remains the comparatively severe threat that our lifestyle poses to wildlife, and the fact that a nuclear disaster has seemingly produced a more suitable reserve for the animals of our planet than we could have done intentionally.