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The Wild Nature of Chernobyl

Chernobyl’s biosphere is something absolutely amazing and attracts scientists from all over the world. Alongside people of science thousands of tourists come to see vast empty lands covered with forests. The zone is inhabited by wild horses and bears who roam around freely. These animals are used to safety from people and do not see humans as a threat. Experts from all over the world advise against interventions and plead the government to keep the current status of the zone and even make it a reserve. A huge project by the ministry of nature is plotting a series of new laws that would significantly limit the intensity of industrialization and usage of local territories in general. Unfortunately, the president did not agree to sign this set of laws yet.

The exclusion zone is over 2.6 thousand square kilometers where people do not live anymore. Roughly 30 years ago, the vast majority of local population was forcefully evacuated due to a tragic incident on the local NPP. Since that moment, a large portion of the territory grew young forest. Where before one could see cultured pastures and fields, only wild beasts rule. The diversity of local fauna also dramatically changed over the course of years. Gray stork, brown bear, and some other rare species are once again dominating the region that previously not hospitable towards them.

 

Wild Pets of Chernobyl

Even in the beginning of the 20th century, the vast majority of local forests was destroyed and replaced with common pine trees. Before the tragedy of 1986, over 100 thousand people lived here according to official statistics. For more than 30 years, this area has been empty and still is. Only some parts of the NPP and the Chernobyl city are still inhabited by liquidators. Wild animals of the region are not afraid of humans and when they see strange two-legged creatures, they gladly come closer. Such behavior was many times noticed by journalists and scientists.

Local wild horses are called Przewalski's horses. They were released after the incident and they multiplied quickly. Wild animals are often found close to their domesticated brethren all over the zone. Many of pet horses belong to the local department of the ministry of emergency situations.

 

Alexander is a local and lives in a small settlement called Dityatki. He works in the exclusion zone. He told journalists that about two years ago one of his stallions attracted two wild Przewalski's mares that wondered of the zone. He tried to scare them away but all his efforts were futile. Alexander decided to keep them and in less than a year one of his newly domesticated mares brought him a filly with all distinct traits of a standard Przewalski's horse from characteristic the coloring of the coating and its texture to overall constitution. The filly is more than happy to play with people.

Many years ago, a group of journalists encountered a wild fox. The animal approached the group. Journalists fed it with bread and baloney. The fox picked up the sandwich with an incredible agility and disappeared in rough patches not far away.

 

Even insects here do not show any aggression. Nearby Pripyat one of journalists was able to catch a bumblebee and simply carry it around. Even insects do not think that humans are dangerous or want to harm them. Local ponds and rivers inside the contaminated zone serve as habitat to many species of fish with the biggest one being chub. A school of fish will immediately appear if you just throw a small piece of bread in the water.

The Harmony between Us and Them

The local department of the ministry of emergency situations is busy all the time. They have to protect the zone from wild fires, rescue wild animals and bring them to the local animal care service, and look after nature in general. Wild animals sometimes suffer from fires, receive wounds, and there are often babies left without parents. The local care center is full of domesticated and wild animals, birds, and even some insects. This is why the place is so popular amongst tourists.

There were several very interesting finds as told to journalists by Alexey who is one of the most active members of the local ministry of emergency situations department. He is often seen inside the zone.

“From time to time, we find animals in forests,” says Alexey, “we bring them home and heal them if they need help. A little bit later, we release them back in the wilderness of the zone. We once found two moose, a mother and a child. We frequently pick up wolves and once we even got a wild boar. The boar lived with us for several years but died recently from African swine fever virus that he got from domesticated animals.”

 

“The diversity of the contaminated areas changes depending on various factors,” suggests Igor Chijevski, a scientists who conducts various researches in the zone. He continues, “The population of wild swine shrunk due to diseases while rodents who live with people dominate the region and scared wild species away. The white stork who usually accompanies people is nearly distinct in the area and was replaced by gray stork.”

Sergey Gashyak, the professor of the local Chernobyl Center of Radiation Security Issues, recently started using phototraps. Some of them captured wild species that were long gone from the Kiev’s vicinity. BBC recently reported that brown bear is a frequent guest of the exclusion zone.

While radioactivity is still one of the most dangerous things about the zone when it comes to humans, its effect on the local biosphere seems to be nearly non-existent. The wild life quickly reclaims the territory. Only a few areas with the highest radiation levels are not inhabited by wild animals as reported by the local Ecology Center. The most dangerous place in the zone is the so-called Red Forest. The territory was bombarded by radionuclides during the first three days of the incident and was wiped clean. However, even these hostile soils were soon covered with young pines brought here by humans and many grasses and wild trees returned years later. Some birds also visit the red forest from time to time. People cannot stay within this zone for a long time. In 2016, the radiation level was 100 times higher compared to urban areas.

 

The area now referred to as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is almost entirely devoid of humans, but the population of wild animals in the area has boomed in the years since the disaster, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

A team of researchers found that populations of Eurasian elk (known as moose in North America), deer and wild boar are about as healthy in the Chernobyl region as they are in nearby nature reserves uncontaminated by radiation.

"These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl exclusion zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposures," the study said.[1]

 

[1] During the preparation of the article were used the materials of the site https://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/06/free-of-humans-chernobyl-sees-wildlife-boom.html