Wildlife populations seem to be increasing near the Chernobyl nuclear-disaster site, which people abandoned after a reactor explosion in 1986.

Credit: Valeri Yurko

Jim Smith at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and his colleagues found that the Belarus sector of the exclusion zone around the devastated power plant had abundances of elk, deer and wild boar that were similar to those in four uncontaminated nature reserves in Belarus. Wolf numbers were more than seven times higher around Chernobyl than in the other reserves. The team also found no correlation between contamination levels near the reactor site and the number of animal tracks.

The findings contradict previous studies suggesting that radiation around Chernobyl is harmful to wildlife populations, and show the resilience of large mammals to chronic radiation exposure, say the authors.

Curr. Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.017 (2015)