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Around Chernobyl, Animals Thrive In Man's Absence

Thirty years after the world's worst nuclear accident, the area around Chernobyl -- known as the exclusion zone -- remains empty of people, but the forest teems with elk, deer, wolves, and other animals. The diversity of wildlife suggests that radiation, though harmful, has not kept creatures from thriving, and the lack of human activity has allowed the natural habitat to recover.


A white-tailed eagle lands on a wolf carcass in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, located within the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.
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A white-tailed eagle lands on a wolf carcass in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus, located within the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

Wolves in the village of Orevichi, Belarus. Following the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986, some 100,000 people fled the area permanently, leaving behind an abandoned zone the size of Luxembourg.
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Wolves in the village of Orevichi, Belarus. Following the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986, some 100,000 people fled the area permanently, leaving behind an abandoned zone the size of Luxembourg.

A wolf peers into the camera in Orevichi, Belarus.
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A wolf peers into the camera in Orevichi, Belarus.

Elk in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus. Early studies showed that radiation caused drastic reductions in wildlife populations after the Chernobyl disaster, but long-term studies show that mammal populations have bounced back.
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Elk in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus. Early studies showed that radiation caused drastic reductions in wildlife populations after the Chernobyl disaster, but long-term studies show that mammal populations have bounced back.

A tawny owl leaves a chimney in the village of Kazhushki, Belarus. The abandoned zone spans the border area of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. 
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A tawny owl leaves a chimney in the village of Kazhushki, Belarus. The abandoned zone spans the border area of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. 

A fox walks through the snow in Babchin, Belarus.
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A fox walks through the snow in Babchin, Belarus.

An elk runs near the village of Babchin, Belarus.
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An elk runs near the village of Babchin, Belarus.

A white-tailed eagle on the roof of an abandoned school in Tulgovichi, Belarus
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A white-tailed eagle on the roof of an abandoned school in Tulgovichi, Belarus

A bison nursery near Dronki, Belarus
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A bison nursery near Dronki, Belarus

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A magpie near Babchin, Belarus
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A magpie near Babchin, Belarus

A golden eagle approaches the remains of an elk near Babchin, Belarus.
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A golden eagle approaches the remains of an elk near Babchin, Belarus.

An otter swims in a river near the abandoned village of Pogonnoe, Belarus.
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An otter swims in a river near the abandoned village of Pogonnoe, Belarus.

A woodpecker near Babchin, Belarus. In a 2015 study, biologists reported that the Chernobyl region "illustrates the resilience of wildlife populations when freed from the pressures of human habitation."
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A woodpecker near Babchin, Belarus. In a 2015 study, biologists reported that the Chernobyl region "illustrates the resilience of wildlife populations when freed from the pressures of human habitation."

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