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Former Ghost Town Chernobyl Now Thriving With Animals; Can People Survive?

Apr 20, 2016 12:14 PM EDT
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Scientists and researchers are studying the effects of contaminated environments on animals. After decades of devastation due to nuclear radiation, they've found that Chernobyl, site of the world's most historically catastrophic nuclear accident, now appears to be a refuge and breeding ground for wild animals whose populations have shown an increase in numbers despite the contamination in the area. The question now is, if animal life can return to the area, can people eventually repopulate the once barren wasteland and survive?

30 years ago in April, the town of Chernobyl in Pripyat, Ukraine was deprived of life due to a nuclear power plant accident. Since then, people were prohibited to live near Chernobyl due to the drastic effect of radiation to the human body. But according to Science Daily, studies conducted by various institutions, including the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, affirms that there is a notable number of wildlife living in the area.

In the same report, the researchers said they used the "first remote-camera scent-station survey" in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Researchers opted to deploy this technology to produce hard proof, in the form of pictures, that animals survive there.

According to National Geographic, these findings are significant to the rehabilitation of Chernobyl. In 1998, in an effort to study the viability of life in Chernobyl, some animals were released in the area. Scientists believe that species left there can survive and even reproduce. Today, there are "moose, deer, beaver, and owls, brown bear, lynx, and wolves" in Chernobyl.

Marina Shkvyria, wolf expert at the Ukraine's National Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with National Geographic that "We came down here late last spring and howled, and the young wolf pups howled back from the top of that hill," She also added that aside from having the place to their own, part of the animals' survival could be attributed to the lack of human beings hunting them.

Beasley affirms Shkvyria's study, saying that large animals tend to reproduce more in CEZ. In an article byPhysics Organization, they quoted Shkvyria saying "These animals are probably the only positive outcome of the terrible catastrophe we had".

Since 1986, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) was a forbidden zone for men because the contamination prohibits people from surviving for extended periods in the area. It includes territories from the Ukraine and Belarus affected by the nuclear accident.

In the same report by the National Geographic, scientists report that there is still a high level of radiation lurking in the area. Anders Pape Møller, a Danish scientist at the University of Paris-Sud, says, "These animals in Chernobyl and Fukushima live 24 hours a day in these contaminated sites. Even if the actual dose for one hour is not extremely high, after a week or after a month, it adds up to a lot. These effects are certainly at a level where you could see dramatic consequences."

Møller said that in his research they found out that the wolves in CEZ manifest cataracts while a good number of birds show signs of bacterial infections under their wings and partial albinism.

Although the level of radiation has dropped drastically in a span of 30 years, contamination is still present in the area. The conditions exhibited by the animals in Chernobyl show that radiation continues to have adverse effects on the living species.

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