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  1. ITV Report

Wildlife is thriving in the ruins of Chernobyl

Animals are thriving in the abandoned towns Credit: Science Media Centre

Wolves, elks, deer and wild boar are all thriving in the ruins around Chernobyl since the area was deserted by humans after the world's worst nuclear accident, a study shows.

Populations of large mammals show no evidence of being affected by the continuing radiation in the exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Wolf numbers near Chernobyl are seven times higher than in nature reserves Credit: Science Media Centre

The plant, which is close to the Belarus border, was hit by an explosion and fire in 1986.

Around 116,000 people were evacuated from the 1,600 square mile exclusion zone and towns were left to go to ruin.

Lynx have also returned to the area Credit: Science Media Centre

Three decades on, the accident has created an accidental "nature reserve" as wolves, elk, deer and wild boar are thriving in the area.

A scientific study published in the journal Current Biology has also found lynx have returned to the area.

A file photo of the abandoned city of Prypiat near Chernobyl nuclear power plant Credit: Reuters

The study said while the extremely high dose rates of radiation in the immediate aftermath of the accident significantly hit animal health and reproduction, they recovered quickly and animal populations are benefiting from the absence of people.

One of the study's authors, Professor Jim Smith of Portsmouth University, said that the nuclear accident had created an accidental "nature reserve".

A family of elks Credit: Science Media Centre

In purely environmental terms, if you take the terrible things that happened to the human population out of the equation, as far as we can see at this stage, the accident hasn't done serious environmental damage.

Indeed by accident it's created this kind of nature reserve.

We're not saying radiation is good for animals, but human habitation and exploitation of the landscape is worse.

– Professor Jim Smith of Portsmouth University
A wild boar living near Chernobyl Credit: Science Media Centre