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April 26th, 2011
03:49 PM ET

Chernobyl: No Haven for Wildlife

Today marks 25 years since the worst nuclear accident in history.  On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine exploded, killing at least 30 people and sending hundreds of others to the hospital.  Soviet authorities evacuated 200,000 people from the area, and set up an exclusion zone the size of Switzerland around the crippled plant.  Millions of people were exposed to radiation, and thousands developed thyroid cancer.  Despite that, the United Nations says there has been no major public health impact in the decades since the accident.  But radiation experts say the true health costs of the disaster are still unknown.

Anecdotal evidence suggests beavers, deer, hawks, eagles and other wildlife have returned to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in abundance since people fled the area in 1986.  But one radiation ecologist says that picture is misleading.  Biology Professor Tim Mousseau of the University of South Carolina says biodiversity in the area around Chernobyl has dropped dramatically since the meltdown.  Last year, he and his colleagues published a census of wildlife in the exclusion zone.  He talked with BackStory about his findings.

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Filed under: backstory • Russia
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Cole

    Th world without cheap and efficient energy – no place for humans.

    April 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. My Camera, My Friend

    Nuclear energy seems wonderful untill it goes wrong.

    April 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Geoff

    Let's hope it does not happen again...... But wait, it has happened again.

    April 27, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. shenille

    Your article just gives me one more reason to take pride as a World Wildlife member.... Chernobyl should never have happened, despite the tough fibers we have with Russia we never wish for bad things to happen to these people... Good luck and God bless for a rapid recovery

    April 27, 2011 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pearl's twirl

    you should really look through this photos. A friend of mine went to Chernobyl 2 years ago and captured what we would not see otherwise. go under galleries and click on Chernobyl 23 years after

    April 27, 2011 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. letawookiewin

    This is really interesting! I'd love to know more. Quite a bit of more recent reports have shown wildlife prospering in the exclusion zone but I haven't heard the other side about how radiation might effect the wildlife negatively. The exclusion zone is probably the most fascinating site for testing by biologists.

    April 27, 2011 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. andy18809 hogan

    April 27, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. thor27

    No I wouldn't recommend it as a hunting preserve no telling what the long term consequences to the mutation of animal life will be,not good for people either.

    April 27, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Calogero Mira

    Chernobyl? Thanks a lot.

    April 27, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. Stephen S. Mack

    For a completely different perspective on Chornobyl, I refer you to Take a look.

    With best regards,


    April 27, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. theamberlight

    Bio-diversity....that would most certainly be affected...only the most adaptable animals would be left in the area. I saw a documentary about the animals that do live there...a cute mommy kitty and her babies amoung others. They were all radioactive, but otherwise "seemingly normal." I have been pondering the thought of why a certain sector of Humans began to develope in contrast to Nature instead of in harmony with It. It intrigues me to think that somehow an evolutionary shift has led the majority of Human Beings to think that it is okay to consume, discard and pollute. And I also feel the wave shifting back to perserving and once againg becoming stewards of our beloved Earth. Good choice for FP! AmberLena

    April 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • indulgence

      Chandra Posted on Love it! Glad I had a cahcne to run with you the other day! Helped me to get back on track while I was up there! Know that you keep me inspired!

      February 26, 2012 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |