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Nature is thriving in the exclusion zone around the disabled nuclear power plant in Fukushima

Wildlife flourishes in the exclusion zone around the disabled Fukushima Daichii nuclear power plant in Japan, images of remote-controlled cameras have been revealed.

Researchers saw more than 20 species in areas around the reactor, including wild boar, macaques and fox-like raccoon dogs.

The findings help reveal how animals react in the wild after a catastrophic nuclear disaster, such as those that occurred in Fukushima and Chernobyl.

People were evacuated from certain areas around the Fukushima reactor after radiation leaks caused by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

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Wildlife such as the Japanese serow, pictured, flourish in the exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan, images from remote-controlled cameras have been revealed

Wildlife such as the Japanese serow, pictured, flourish in the exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan, images from remote-controlled cameras have been revealed

Wildlife ecologist James Beasley of the University of Georgia, in the US, and colleagues used a network of 106 external cameras to take photos of nature in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant over a four-month period.

The cameras took more than 267,000 photos and took photos of more than 20 species, including foxes, Japanese hares and pheasants.

“Our results are the first evidence that many different species of animals now occur throughout the Fukushima evacuation zone, despite the presence of radiological contamination,” said Professor Beasley.

The researchers discovered that animal species that normally occur in conflict with humans – such as wild boar, raccoons and Japanese macaques – were mainly spotted in the human-evacuated zones around the disabled nuclear facility.

“This suggests that these species have increased in abundance following the evacuation of humans,” added Professor Beasley.

Wild boar, for example, was photographed about 26,000 times in the uninhabited areas where nuclear contamination is the most serious, compared to around 13,000 and 7,000 times in the restricted and still inhabited areas, respectively.

Researchers saw more than 20 species in areas around the reactor, including wild boar, macaques and fox-like raccoon dogs, pictured

Researchers saw more than 20 species in areas around the reactor, including wild boar, macaques and fox-like raccoon dogs, pictured

Researchers saw more than 20 species in areas around the reactor, including wild boar, macaques and fox-like raccoon dogs, pictured

“The terrain varies from mountainous to coastal habitats and we know that these habitats support different species,” Beasley said of the diverse study area.

“To take these factors into account, we have included habitat and landscape attributes such as height in our analysis,” Beasley said.

“Based on these analyzes, our results show that the level of human activity, altitude, and habitat type were the primary factors that influenced the abundance of the species evaluated, rather than radiation levels.”

WHAT ANIMALS HAVE CAPTURED THE TEAM CAMERAS?

  • Asian black bears
  • Domestic cats
  • dogs
  • Green pheasants
  • red foxes
  • Japanese ties
  • Japanese hares
  • Japanese macaques
  • Japanese martens
  • Japanese serow
  • Japanese squirrel
  • macaques
  • Masked palm civets
  • mice
  • pheasants
  • raccoons
  • Raccoon dogs
  • Sika deer
  • weasels
  • Wild boar
Wild boar was photographed about 26,000 times in the uninhabited areas where nuclear contamination is the most serious, compared to about 13,000 and 7,000 times in the restricted and still inhabited areas respectively

Wild boar was photographed about 26,000 times in the uninhabited areas where nuclear contamination is the most serious, compared to about 13,000 and 7,000 times in the restricted and still inhabited areas respectively

Wild boar was photographed about 26,000 times in the uninhabited areas where nuclear contamination is the most serious, compared to about 13,000 and 7,000 times in the restricted and still inhabited areas respectively

However, the study was unable to evaluate the health of all the animals they photographed in the area around the former reactor, pictured here after the 2011 earthquake

However, the study was unable to evaluate the health of all the animals they photographed in the area around the former reactor, pictured here after the 2011 earthquake

However, the study was unable to evaluate the health of all the animals they photographed in the area around the former reactor, pictured here after the 2011 earthquake

However, the study was unable to evaluate the health of all the animals they photographed in the area around the former reactor.

“This research makes an important contribution as it investigates radiological effects on populations of wild animals, while most previous studies have looked for effects on individual animals,” said Thomas Hinton, co-author of Fukushima University.

The team discovered that the activities of the species in the evacuated areas remained largely normal.

Raccoons, for example, remained active at night, while day pheasants remained the most active during the day.

“This research makes an important contribution as it investigates radiological effects on populations of wild animals, while most previous studies have looked for effects on individual animals,” said Thomas Hinton, co-author of Fukushima University. Pictured, a tie

The team discovered that the activities of the species in the evacuated areas remained largely normal. Pictured, a wild hare

The team discovered that the activities of the species in the evacuated areas remained largely normal. Pictured, a wild hare

The team discovered that the activities of the species in the evacuated areas remained largely normal. Pictured, a wild hare

In contrast, wild boar appeared to be more active in the evacuated zones than their counterparts in the inhabited areas, suggesting that the pigs had adjusted their behavior to take advantage of the absence of humans.

This seemed to have had a knock-on effect on the Japanese serow – a type of goat-like mammal – that was most commonly captured by cameras in human-inhabited highlands, despite the animals that normally avoid humans.

The researchers think the serow is trying to avoid the growing populations of boar in the evacuated zone.

The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Wildlife ecologist James Beasley of the University of Georgia, in the US, and colleagues used a network of 106 external cameras to capture images of nature in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant over a four-month period

Wildlife ecologist James Beasley of the University of Georgia, in the US, and colleagues used a network of 106 external cameras to capture images of nature in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant over a four-month period

Wildlife ecologist James Beasley of the University of Georgia, in the US, and colleagues used a network of 106 external cameras to capture images of nature in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant over a four-month period

WHAT WAS JAPAN’S FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER 2011?

In 2011, a 10-meter high tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people in the Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima crashed.

This led to various meltdowns, allowing harmful radioactive fuel rods and debris to escape from confined areas.

Seven years after the disaster, researchers are still struggling to clean up fuel in the waters of the wasteful reactors.

Shown is an aerial view of the reactors of the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima

Shown is an aerial view of the reactors of the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima

Shown is an aerial view of the reactors of the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima

It is estimated that factory officials left only 10 percent of the waste fuel after the nuclear melt.

And it is thought that the damaged plant leaks small amounts of radioactive waste to the Pacific Ocean, which could travel to the west coast of the United States.

Researchers now hope to use remote-controlled swimming robots to locate the lost fuel to find the safest way to remove it.

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