The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has to win the award as the unlikeliest wildlife refuge on the planet. Although the animal population here is still recovering, the CEZ is nothing short of a miracle of nature. While wildlife viewing is still tentative, and access still highly restrictive, Chernobyl almost seems destined to become a park that will someday be a huge draw for animal lovers and conservationists. You heard it here first.
The area on the northern frontier of the Ukraine was historically some of the most densely populated regions of the Russias. The region was devastated many times, by the Napoleanic and World Wars, by revolution and by Soviet efforts at collectivization. But the biggest event was the meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, one of the worst man-made environmental disasters of all time. The meltdown killed thousands and necessitated the evacuation of nearly a hundred thousand people. In the nearly thirty years since, the exclusion zone has largely been left abandoned to its own devices.
The CEZ was the area most heavily devastated by the meltdown, and most living things died off. Originally scientists believed that life would not return to the area, but within decades, after radiation levels had decreased, plant growth returned, followed by animals. Many have not done well, notably birds, and mutations have been noted. However, some mammal species have done fairly well, including Deer, Wild Boar, Beaver and Badger. One of the most remarkable recoveries has been that of the wolves, which had previously been on the verge of extinction in the area.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is located along the northern border of Ukraine and Belarus, approximately ninety miles north of Kiev. It is not a park or protected area of any sort, but access into the area is still strinctly controlled due to excessivle residual levels of radiation. Supervised tours are allowed. As of this writing no other visitor information was available. Web: www.tourkiev.com/chernobyltour (unofficial tourism website).