The Animals of Chernobyl: An Inside Look at the Toll That Radiation Took on Animals & Wildlife

On April 26, 1986, the num­ber 4 reac­tor at the Cher­nobyl nuclear pow­er plant blew up in what is now Ukraine. The site spewed a cloud of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al that spread over much of Europe. The area imme­di­ate­ly around Cher­nobyl received more than 400 times the radi­a­tion as Hiroshi­ma and won’t be safe­ly inhab­it­able for about 20,000 years. The gov­ern­ment set up a 1,000 square mile exclu­sion zone around the site. While short vis­its to the zone are pos­si­ble with­out too much dan­ger, liv­ing there is not advis­able. Can­cer is a real prob­lem for the cou­ple hun­dred elder­ly stal­warts who still make the zone their home.

With­in the zone, nature has tak­en its own course, dis­man­tling the Sovi­et-era bru­tal­ist ten­e­ments of the sur­round­ing aban­doned cities and turn­ing it into what at first blush looks more and more like a prelap­sar­i­an Eden. The truth proves to be more com­pli­cat­ed.

Dr. Tim­o­thy Mousseau, a biol­o­gist from the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Car­oli­na, has been exam­in­ing the wildlife around Cher­nobyl for fif­teen years. He’s dis­cov­ered that the radi­a­tion that has been bathing the area for almost 30 years is chang­ing nature. As you can see in the New York Times Op-Doc video above, birds are devel­op­ing tumors, bugs have abnor­mal spots and spi­der webs seem much more freeform than usu­al. Get more on the sto­ry over at the Times.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon. If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Scenes from HBO’s Cher­nobyl v. Real Footage Shot in 1986: A Side-By-Side Com­par­i­son

Joseph Stal­in, a Life­long Edi­tor, Wield­ed a Big, Blue, Dan­ger­ous Pen­cil

How to Spot a Com­mu­nist Using Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism: A 1955 Man­u­al from the U.S. Mil­i­tary

Tarkovsky Films Now Free Online

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.