Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

Chernobyl is remembered as Humankind’s biggest tragedy so far. In the aftermath tens of thousands of people were desperately evacuated from the Ukrainian city of Pripyat to evade the disastrous effects of Radiation.

Was the same done for animals there?

Well, according to Clean Future fund that looks after the health and safety of the dogs and cats in Chernobyl, Pripyat and Slavutych, all the pets were abandoned to ensure that radiation does not spread so forth.

Post all the Human evacuations, soldiers of the Soviet Army were dispatched to shoot the animals in Pripyat but it was impossible to round up all the animals throughout the exclusion zone. And our hearts ached upon similar scenes from HBO’s Chernobyl series.

Henceforth, these former pets survived in the exclusion zone and some even migrated to the decadent Chernobyl nuclear power plant. There are over 250 stray dogs now roaming the grounds.

Radioactivity wiped out any lifeform within its scope, leading to immediate annihilation of pine trees in over 400 hectares. Even the entire Red Forest had to be bulldozed and buried in “waste graveyards“.

The Red Forest. 2012. On April 26th 1986 there was an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, reactor number four spewed out huge amounts of radiation contaminating soil, water and atmosphere with the radiation equivalent to 200 times that of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The wind blew most of the radioactive fallout onto Wormwood Forest that was within the 10km surrounding the power station. The pine trees of Wormwood took on massive quantities of radiation (as much as 8000 roentgens an hour) and died, but there was a side effect to the contamination, the trees turned bright red. Wormwood Forest no longer exists; it’s now called The Red Forest. The Red Forest is one part of a project made up of three experimental photo-series using the last rolls of infrared colour film on the planet.

The radioactive wasteland that endured a catastrophe that Scientists consider it to be inhabitable for next 20000 years, is now witnessing an endangered animal population thrive.

As the radioactive fire burned for almost two weeks, there were enormous plumes of radioactive gases and aerosols capturing the atmosphere. Dozens of radioactive substances including iodine-131, cesium-137, and plutonium-239 fell to the earth, carried down by rainfall.

The reason also being Chernobyl’s radioactive material still constantly firing out high energy particles and waves that smash cellular structures, produce reactive chemicals and cause cancers attacking the cells’ machinery in organisms.

Ironically, natural life can ostensibly adapt to a disastrous environment but cannot sustain alongside human interventions around the globe.

University of Portsmouth led the study, a considerable increase has been reported in the population of boar, elk and roe deer, especially the decade after the disaster. Wolds population grew sevenfold.

captures of different species at Chernobyl

A lead researcher explains: “Our camera trap surveys in Ukraine have photographed Eurasian lynx, brown bear, black storks, and European Bison.

Ukrainian and Belarussian researchers have recorded hundreds of plant and animal species in the zone including more than 60 rare species including the rare and endangered horse Prezwalski, native to Central Asia.

Do they exhibit radiation effects?

Scientists associated with the study have no idea if these are healthy but suspect that these species could be suffering negatively due to radiation poisoning. Even it is not feasible to conduct studies in such area.

Smaller ones like birds, rodents, and insects—show that Chernobyl radiation had caused mutations and ill health effects in them, with a few of them even transmitting them to their further generations.

According to an ecologist Byrne: “I don’t want to say that animals from Chernobyl are contaminating the world. But if there are any forms of mutations that could be passed on, it’s a thing to consider.”

Plants like wheat, rye, oats and barley etc. thrive in the area but with radiation effects, according to a study conducted by the University of Exeter and the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology.

Even in the most radioactively exposed areas of the Exclusion zone, vegetation was recovering within three years. Because they couldn’t move, plants adapted to the worst nightmare and man-made disaster.

Whatever the picture may be, one can easily point out the population growth and impressive biodiversity for Chernobyl’s wildlife: things are apparently fine for them maybe even better than they would be if humans ruled those lands.

“The burden brought by radiation at Chernobyl is less severe than the benefits reaped from humans leaving the area,” explains a plant Biochemistry lecturer at London University.

Nevertheless, there have been a few Human resettlers too apart from the fact that Chernobyl is full of risks and radiations.

Buntova and Lapiha are a part of such small group those have permission from the Ukrainian government to live in the zone full time. It’s been 35 years since the accident and anyone below 18yrs cannot seem to survive there even now.

Meanwhile, Japan is still strategizing to release its radioactive-contaminated waters.

When asked why they retired here away from their kids and grandkids, Lapiha thinks for a minute, then replies, “I am just happy in Chernobyl.

And as he grabs the dog’s face and plays with him, saying “clever wolf, clever dog,” he doesn’t seem too worried, dying of the radiation or any miserable life ahead.

Nature is the true mystic force, an ultimate sorcerer; it knows how to balance things out in bleak world.


By Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.