Humans Are More Toxic to Wildlife than Chernobyl

Wild boars return to Chernobyl. Image: Valeriy Yurko
Wild boars return to Chernobyl. Image: Valeriy Yurko
The Chernobyl disaster remains the worst nuclear accident in human history, with a death toll that is difficult to tally even decades later. Given the sobering reach of the resulting radiation contamination, you might expect the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone—the 4,200 square kilometers in the immediate vicinity of the explosion—to have suffered serious long-term ecological damage.

By Becky Ferreira|MOTHERBOARD

Surprisingly, though, a study published today in Current Biology shows that wildlife in the exclusion zone is actually more abundant than it was before the disaster. According to the authors, led by Portsmouth University professor of environmental science Jim Smith, the recovery is due to the removal of the single biggest pressure on wildlife—humans.

“The wildlife at Chernobyl is very likely better than it was before the accident, not because radiation is good for animals, but because human occupation is much worse,” Smith told me over email.

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