HUMANS are worse for wildlife than nuclear disaster, according to the first long-term study at Chernobyl.
The study was co-ordinated by Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth at the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.
It found wildlife – including elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar and wolves – was thriving in the affected area.
This was the first large-scale study of mammal populations in the 4,200sq km human exclusion zone around Chernobyl.
Prof Smith said: ‘We know that radiation can be harmful in very high doses, but research on Chernobyl has shown that it isn’t as harmful as many people think.
‘There have been many reports of abundant wildlife at Chernobyl but this is the first large-scale study to prove how resilient they are.
‘It’s very likely that wildlife numbers there are much higher than they were before the accident. This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming and forestry, are a lot worse.’
After the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl the region’s 116,000 residents were permanently excluded, and animals in the area were exposed to extremely high doses of radiation.
The research shows that their populations recovered within a few years.
Prof Smith said: ‘The Chernobyl area is a fascinating experimental area because it allows us to investigate the transfers and effects of radioactivity in the long term. Chernobyl allows us to study the effects on animals after years of radiation exposure.’
At Fukushima, site of the world’s second worst nuclear accident, there have also been reports of wild boar thriving in the evacuated area.