Chernobyl’s wild horses

Luke Massey

Since the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, 34 years have passed. This accident, the largest ever in a nuclear facility, led to the creation of a 4,700 km² exclusion zone between Ukraine and Belarus. A total of 350,000 people were evacuated from the area.

Initial predictions said that, due to radioactive contamination, the area would be uninhabitable for more than 20,000 years. Chernobyl was thought to become a nuclear wasteland, a desert for life.

Three decades later, studies have shown Chernobyl holds a diverse and abundant animal community. A large number of species that are threatened in Ukraine and in wider Europe reside in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

A revealing example of the situation of wildlife in Chernobyl is that of Przewalski’s horses…

The introduction of Przewalski’s horses to Chernobyl has been a success. Several lessons can be drawn from this success.

The case of Przewalski’s horses reflects that in the absence of humans, the large Chernobyl area has become a refuge for wildlife. This should lead us to reflect on the impact of human presence on natural ecosystems. With no human activity around, even with radioactive contamination, the great fauna seems to thrive.

Today’s article only sets the stage. The questions asked about wildlife of all sorts having an improved chance at survival are being asked in many scientific disciplines, nowadays. A thorough effort to see what may be learned from Chernobyl’s horses will begin this autumn. RTFA, click the link. And stay tuned. Waiting for the results of that study.

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