Chernobyl: An Unexpected Wildlife Reserve

More than 30 years after the tragic explosion at the nuclear facility at Chernobyl, scientists have found that the area around the explosion site had become a harbor for wild animals.

The area that has been out of reach of humans for over three decades, has become home to wildlife like Deer, wild boars, elk, lynx, and bison, etc.

Researchers from the UK found that at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), a population of wild animals including wolves, exploded between 1987 and 1996. It was found that the population of wolves had increased to such an extent that they had become a major problem for local farmers in the region.

 The accident of April 2nd, 1986 had a major impact on the environment. An area that received the highest radiation exposure, is now called the “Red Forest” because the Pine trees in that area died instantly on that day and it’s leaves turned “red”.

It was assumed that the area would become desolate. But after 33 years of containment, Chernobyl is found to be inhabited by bears, wolves, and more than 200 unique plant species.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is an astounding example of nature’s power to heal itself from a devastating accident.

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has been continuously working with Ukraine’s Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources to establish a national biosphere reserve around Chernobyl.

The camera trap surveys conducted by researchers from the University of Portsmouth UK have found a wildlife population that includes mammals like brown bears and wolves, similar to most prominent biosphere reserves in the world. They have also recorded rare plant species that are ironic to be found in an area that was impacted by nuclear radiations for years. It seems as if the Pine forests of 1986 have given birth to a forest ecosystem, that has become resilient to climate change and forest fires.

One of the main goals of the UNEP-GEF project is to help the Government of Ukraine to protect Chernobyl from environmental degradation and future man-made disasters. Through this project, UNEP aims to call Sustainable Development Goal-15, which helps countries to combat desertification, land degradation, and to halt further biodiversity loss.

The Chernobyl tragedy of 1986 has taught us that life on earth is interconnected and we have an urgent need to maintain, as well as sustain it.

UNEP’s ambitious project, Conserving, Enhancing and Managing Carbon Stocks and Biodiversity in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, focuses on helping the Government of Ukraine in the spheres of biodiversity conservation, carbon segregation, and sustainable land management.


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