Categories: conservation

The Chernobyl catastrophe proves that wild animals are better off without us

With humans out of the way, Chernobyl’s wildlife thrives like never before. When reactor number four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded on April 26, 1986, many people, thousands of trees and most of the animals in the area were killed. Subsequently many people have been killed because of radiation poisoning. The radiation emitted was 400 times higher than that released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War.

Eurasian lynx enjoying the wilderness created by the Chernobyl explosion. Photo in public domain/fair use.

Now, 33 years later, tourists are returning to the area because it is fascinating to see what happens when you leave an area entirely alone for that length of time. It is possible for people to visit the area for a day because the radiation levels are not sufficiently high to harm them.

In those intervening 33 years, without any humans interfering with them, wild animals have thrived. It’s as if the clock has been turned back in what is now Belarus and Ukraine, to a time when humans did not exist on the planet.

Map of Chernobyl exclusion zone – thanks to the Daily Mail online.

The area around the plant was cordoned off and in that area there is now great biodiversity. The wild species studied are maintaining stable and viable populations. Camera traps are recording abundant fauna at all levels of radiation. The radiation levels do vary throughout the area which is 1000 square miles. It’s like an enormous wildlife reserve without any interference from humans, not even wildlife tourists with cameras. Humans, as we know, have a tendency to use and abuse the environment to their advantage at the expense of the planet and wild species. Lynx are often hunted for fun and for their fur.

Lynx in the 1,000 square mile Chernobyl exclusion zone. Camera trap photo: Catherine Barnett.

Of the species there one concerns me more than the others, the Eurasian lynx. This is the biggest lynx in the lynx family of which there is the bobcat, Canada lynx and Iberian lynx.

The pictures on this page show the Eurasian lynx enjoying the natural wilderness which humans should allow them without being forced to do so by a catastrophe such as the Chernobyl explosion.

Eurasian lynx at Chernobyl. The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the lynx family of wild cats.

It appears that the animals are unaffected or minimally affected by the radiation that remains. Perhaps they’re more resistant to it. It had been thought that the area would become a desert for wildlife but they were wrong. It appears that the opposite has happened. Other species in the area of brown bears, bison, wolves, wild horses and more than 200 bird species.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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