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No one discounts the shock and anxiety that the Chernobyl Disaster of 1986 caused for the world. After all, the radioactivity unleashed was multiple times more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki so there was very good reason for concern. Scientists have since conducted research on the contaminated areas, mild and severe, to determine the long-term effects of such an exposure on animal life.

No doubt, there were animal mutations, but did these mutations create terrifying monsters with incredible strength and killing power that we see in pop culture media?

Real life image of Chernobyl mutant...
What kind of monsters roam the wastelands of Chernobyl? Image Source: http://stalker.wikia.com/wiki/Pseudogiant

Once the forced evacuations of some 336,000 humans was complete (actually, some 300 people did not evacuate and continue to live in the contaminated area), the topography became a wasteland of sorts. In the short-term, nothing really thrived. Gradually, however, researchers ventured out to collect data and discovered increasing populations of animal and plant life. Their findings provide information that clearly belies all of the predictions of horror.

chernobyl piglet radiation mutant
Piglet with dipygus, a severe congenital deformity, at Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum in Kiev. Image Source: Vincent de Groot – http://www.videgro.net

On farms in Narodychi Raion of Ukraine, for instance, in the first four years after the accident roughly 350 animals were born with gross deformities such as missing or extra limbs, missing eyes, heads or ribs, or deformed skulls.  Take for example the piglet above, who suffered a severe congenital deformity called dipygus.  Yes, those are extra limbs on its back… it’s like a sort of insectopig

There’s no shortage of claims for Chernobyl mutant animals.  One simply has to do a Google image search to see pages and pages of results like this:

Search results for "chernobyl animal mutants"
Searching for “Chernobyl animal mutants”…

Obviously, the majority of the images above are fakes – either not from Chernobyl, from video games or movies, or photoshopped, or completely unrelated.

So what’s the deal?

Natural selection seems to be at play here. If, indeed, there were horrible animal mutations of the monstrous type, they are not seen today.  Animals with severe mutations that impaired their life to a significant degree – especially those with abnormalities that increase the  difficulty or inability to adapt and reproduce – tend to be weeded out of the population.  Just like our friend the the insectopig above.

chernobyl horses wildlife
Regular horses near the Chernobyl site. Not so scary. Image Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/images/060426_chernobyl_big.jpg

Today, observations and population counts show ever-increasing and thriving populations of native animals – bird of all varieties, deer, elk, boar, wolves, horses, small rodents and insects.

While research has confirmed that their internal radiation levels are relatively high, there do not appear to be gross physical mutations, except in relatively minor occurrences. Rodents, for example, have shorter life spans and smaller litters; some beetles have shorter horns; swallows have smaller brains; and some animals exhibit albinism.  These are conditions which may not impact their ability to survive and thrive. In general, the animal populations look somewhat “normal”, despite the radiation levels that persist.

chernobyl today bumper cars
Chernobyl today: Anyone up for bumper cars? Image Source: http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2067393_2268614,00.html

With the human population virtually gone, it appears that animals have found a “sanctuary” of sorts. In this “wasteland,” they have found a relatively safe environment – one that is not ravaged by the incursion of human destruction. Many now actually see the Chernobyl environment as a living and growing animal sanctuary – better in many ways than contrived animal preserves.  This area is huge – 30km in all directions from the site, and is known as the “zone of alienation”.

While some researchers have pointed to lower animal populations (more specifically, biodiversity) in these areas to be the result of contamination, others suggest that animals simply choose the best environment or habitat, and therefore increasing the net number of biomass in the area.

Classroom overgrown in Chernobyl. Image Source: Gerd Ludwig/INSTITUTE
Classroom overgrown in Chernobyl. Image Source: Gerd Ludwig/INSTITUTE

For all of the dire predictions and for all of the rumors and myths of monstrous creatures existing in and around the area of the Chernobyl disaster, research and resulting data paint a very different picture.  There is simply no evidence for the monsters popularized in videos games and horror movies.

Sources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Exclusion_Zone#Flora_and_fauna
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#Effects
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_the_Chernobyl_disaster#Effect_on_the_natural_world

 

Guest author Julie Ellis believes that, only through experiential knowledge does one become an engaging and creative writer. Her degree in Journalism and a host of real-world study and experience has made her a permanent and popular blogger for PremierEssay.com.

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