Back in 1986, there was a catastrophic explosion that resulted in the infamous Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in northern Ukraine. It gave life to disaster movies and appalling nightmares that no one would ever want to dream of. The explosion released about 400x the amount of radioactive material as the bombing of Hiroshima.Subsequently, the surrounding areas became uninhabitable for human beings.
Today, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation, also known as the Exclusion zone covers about 1,000 square miles in Ukraine as well as 800 square miles in Belarus.
Before the disaster, the region was a sanctuary to 120,000 people living in the cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat. Now, it’s a ghost town with outskirts that are seeing the comeback of wildlife blooming in the absence of humans.
In spite of the radiation, researchers have found an abundant mammal community. There have even been sightings of the rare Przewalski’s horse, the European lynx, and brown bears. These species were thought to be long gone from the region, but as time has passed, they have slowly been returning. These are not the only examples of nature flourishing in the area: even the population of gray wolves has exceeded that of the uncontaminated areas in the region. More and more species of wildlife have been thriving in the area 30 years after the incident. 334 bird species also flock the area, which is simply a magnificent way of nature letting us know that it can recover even without the help of mankind.
“The reserve hosts many rare and endangered species, which thrive here thanks to the virtual absence of humans. The area has seen returning Bears, rebounding Wolves and Boars and prospering herds of European Bison and Przewalski’s Horses released in the Zone after the accident. Camera traps in the area have captured evidence of the reappearance of extremely rare native Lynx. The Reserve is now home to the rare Greater Spotted Eagle, Eagle Owl and White- tailed Eagle. Undisturbed by humans, the populations of previously scarce animals (such as Badger, Black Stork, Short-eared Owl, Elk, Black Grouse, Red Deer, Least Weasel, and Beaver) have multiplied enormously.” According to APB-Birdlife’s website.
Belarus began to offer wildlife tours in the area lead by an eco-tour company called APB-Birdlife Belarus. It is also said that the radiation levels are less than one compared to being exposed to on a transatlantic flight.
"The accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant resulted in complete abandonment of a huge territory in Belarus as well as land on the Ukrainian side, creating the largest ever experiment as to what nature does when people leave. 30 years later the area is the nearest that Europe has toa wilderness and gives key lessons on how wildlife doesn’t need us! The zone is a classic exampleof an involuntary park. Its beauty cannot be overstated." According to APB-Birdlife Belarus.
However, there were notes by the Guardian writer Tom Allan who went on one of these tours; he has found signs of fallout-related disease and mutation amongst the species. Although, it is true that there’s evidence that there are large populations of mammals despite it all.
“We don’t yet have the full picture, according to Viktar Fenchuk, project manager for the Wilderness Conservation Program in Belarus, and one of the country’s most seniorconservationists. The reserve could be an ecological “trap”, where animals move in and then develop health problems, but the evidence so far is that on a population level, the effect of radiation is not visible.” Allan said.
Nobody really knows the fate of this zone and its most recent inhabitants. But for now, maybe we humans definitely could use this food for thought.
With the imminent collapse of nature because of mankind’s failure to take care of the planet, it can be quite heartbreaking to think and see that nature is actually thriving without us. Today, there are about 1 million animal and plant species that are now facing to be extinct and there’s no one else to blame but mankind. In decades and the entire human history, plant and animal species are disappearing faster than ever.
As disaster struck heavily in one region, wildlife has gained a paradise. What humans consider a Zone of Alienation has become a haven for different animals. Now, maybe it’s time to askourselves. What if wildlife and nature could thrive far better if there were no humans to destroy what is considered paradise?