Cameras Show Amazing Wildlife Living in Chernobyl


Cameras on the Ukrainian side of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has begun to provide fascinating images showing the lives of the various animals that have made their home in the contaminated landscape.

The cameras will be in position throughout the year at 84 different locations to allow scientists to record which animals pass by and as much more information about them as they can see, such as where they make their homes.

Early results

In the first four months of operation, the team have seen more than 10,000 images of animals that seems to suggest the 30km zone that was established just after the disaster in April 1986 is now a rich home to wildlife.  The zone was established after the reactor explosion that ejected radioactive material into the area as well as high into the atmosphere.

The network of cameras will allow scientists to make informed decisions about which species to then fit with collars to check the level of radioactivity in the area.  Project leader Mike Wood from the University of Salford in the UK said that the aim of the project was to find animals that moved across different parts of the contaminated area and this would most likely be larger animals such as wolves.

One of the species that seems to have adapted well to life in the zone is the Przewalski’s Horse.  They have been seen on the cameras moving around in quite large groups.


The project will last for five years and is part of the Transfer, Exposure, Effect or Tree that aims to ‘reduce uncertainty in estimating the risk to both humans and wildlife associated with exposure to radioactivity’ as well as reduce unnecessary conservatism in these risk calculation.  Most of the work will be carried out inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ).

Late last year, one of Dr Wood’s colleagues in Ukraine, Sergey Gaschak, captured what is thought to be the first photographic evidence of brown bears within the exclusion zone.  But one glimpse of such an animal isn’t enough to consider them for fitment with collars.

Fitting collars to smaller animals such as foxes also has a disadvantage due to the size of the battery back that they can accommodate.  On the turn side, catching larger animals is a far more complicated matter and would need a trained marksman as well as the special permits needed to conduct the trapping.

Currently the team are favouring using bait to trap the animals into cages and then fit the collars before being assessed by a vet and rereleased.


One surprising problem within the CEZ is illegal poaching and cameras have already captured one elk who had a narrow escape from a poacher.  Their activity would also have a bearing on the choice of species the team would select for the collars because if the animal were killed, all the data it had collected would also be lost.

Natural predators too have an impact on choices – for example, there are lynx in the area who will hunt naturally other species.  Use of the camera traps are vital in helping the team select which animals have the best chance of surviving long enough to provide the necessary data.


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