With humans unable to live in the region for the forseeable future, Chernobyl is a unique experiment that sees nature reclaiming its ground.
Nearly 30 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, nature is slowly but surely reclaiming what humans destroyed. Since the explosion, Chernobyl has become a ghost town with only empty buildings and structures remaining. The exclusion zone of Chernobyl, a 19-mile radius around the power plant, had been virtually destroyed following the nuclear disaster in 1986 but now reports suggest it is now home to many species of flora and fauna including the elk, deer, fox, bears, and wolves. There are currently more animals in the exclusion zone than there were prior to the incident, according to researchers from the UK. APB-Birdlife Belarus, the country’s largest private conservation organization, is now organizing eco-tours for tourists. "It gives us key lessons on how wildlife doesn’t need us!" reads the conservation organization's website.
The Chernobyl disaster is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history and was rated seven, the maximum severity, on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The disaster released radiation levels 400 times that of the Hiroshima bombing. A pine forest in close proximity to the reactor turned reddish-brown and died after the explosion. The forest thus earned the name the "Red Forest". Countless animals were born with deformities for the next five years after the disaster.
Following the disaster, a majority of the people moved out of the area. Over 1,20,000 people had lived in the towns of Chernobyl and Pripyat prior to the blast. The absence of humans has helped nature regain its hold on the region. The development was helped by the fact that the site was opened to the public only in December 2018. The area is now home to many species of animals including rare ones such as the Przewalski’s horse and European lynx. Both were spotted recently for the first time after the disaster.
The exclusion zone will continue to remain inappropriate for human habitation for hundreds of years more but this has worked in favor of the wildlife. Even now, people are only encouraged to make short visits, and not seek to live in the region. 70% of the country's bird species reside in this exclusion zone such as the rare Greater Spotted Eagle, Eagle Owl, and White-tailed Eagle. APB-Birdlife Belarus gives special guided experiences, leading them through the Palieski state radioecological reserve, which is the name for the Belarus side of the Exclusion zone. APB-Birdlife Belarus described it as "the largest ever experiment as to what nature does when people leave."
"Imagine empty villages ‘swallowed’ by vegetation and occupied by new wild residents, abundant forests, lush grass, myriad flourishing species and a real chance to meet Elk or Wolf on your way. Come to see how wildlife has taken over once lively human habitats!" reads the website of the conservation organization.