The Animals That Have Taken Refuge in Chernobyl’s Radioactive Zone

The future of fusion and fission.
Jan. 21 2013 5:34 AM

Chernobyl’s Wildlife Survivors

The radioactive fallout zone has turned into a refuge.

When Mary Mycio tells people she visited the radioactive fallout zone around Chernobyl to study the region’s animals, the questions are always the same. Do the animals have two heads? Do they glow? 

Actually, according to Mycio and photographer and field biologist Sergey Gaschak, the animals are thriving. The 1986 explosion, the worst nuclear accident in history, forced 300,000 people to abandon the highly contaminated area around the wreckage of the power plant. Communal farms turned to wetlands and forests, and the animals came back. The area is now the largest, if unintentional, wildlife sanctuary in Europe.

Gaschak has been photographing animals near Chernobyl since 1995. He uses camera traps with motion detectors to capture some of the animals, but he sees and photographs plenty of them in person: lynx, otters, eagle owls, Przewalski’s horses, several species of bats, and footprints of brown bears.

130118_NP_wolfEX
A wolf in the Chernobyl exclusion zone

Photo by Sergey Gaschak.

130118_NP_deerEX
Elk

Photo by Sergey Gaschak.

130118_NP_singledeerEX
Deer

Photo by Sergey Gaschak.

130118_NP_eagleEX
Eagle

Photo by Sergey Gaschak.

130118_NP_cameratreeEX
Left, camera trap; right, stunted pine trees in the red forest

Photos by Sergey Gaschak and Mary Mycio.

130118_NP_hogsEX
Wild boar

Photo by Sergey Gaschak.

.


TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.