Other than a couple of hundred elderly Samosely the main inhabitants of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are wild animals. Studies, as well as plenty of visual evidence, suggest the zone surrounding the Chernobyl disaster has become a wildlife sanctuary.
Przewalski's Horses near the Pripyat sign
Animals have reclaimed the land including species such as the Przewalski’s horse, Eurasian lynx, wild boar, grey wolf, elk, red deer, moose, brown bear, turtle, voles, mice, shrews, European badger, Eurasian beaver, raccoon dog, red fox, roe deer, European bison, black stork, golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and eagle owl whose populations are all thriving.
When the disaster first occurred, the health and reproductive ability of many animals and plants were negatively affected for the first six months. However, 30 years later, animals and plants have reclaimed the abandoned zone to make it their habitat. Even the site of the explosion was flourishing with wildlife in 2012 as birds nested in the wrecked nuclear plant, and plants and mushrooms lived in and on the site.
Just one of the many dogs who call the exclusion zone home
A 2015 study found similar numbers of mammals in the zone compared to nearby similar nature reserves and the wildlife population was probably higher than it had been before the accident.