In April 1986, reactor number of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl exploded, resulting in huge amounts of radioactive debris being belched into the atmosphere. The area surrounding the plant was worst affected, with anything living being killed. The trees in the surrounding area all turned a rust color and died, leading to the area being named ‘The Red Forest’. The nearby town of Pripyat was evacuated, and the menacing cloud of radioactivity moved across Europe, causing Environmental and health concerns for the people of the countries affected, and for the world.
Chernobyl and the area around it became an exclusion zone, a place where no life was expected to survive and the towns and villages surrounding the plant became eerie abandoned ghost towns. The neighboring country of Belarus fared particularly bad as the wind was traveling in that direction at the time of the accident. Nobody expected anything to be able to live near the contaminated plant., certainly not for nature to reclaim the land and to appear to flourish in the land believed to have been poisoned for centuries to come…
Wolves are one of the success stories of the region, making a successful comeback in large packs to the area now that it is undisturbed by human life. But a happy surprise is the Przewalskis horses. The only horses never to be domesticated, the Przewalskis horses, like zebras live in large herds. They also have two extra chromosomes than a domestic horse. They are classed as endangered, as there is less than 2000 thought to be left in the wild. They are unlike the familiar beautiful racehorses that we know, immortalised in bronze horse sculptures by Gill Parker. They came close to extinction due to being hunted for meat, and habitat loss, but in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl have found an unlikely sanctuary. Herds of them can be seen grazing happily in the area, where it was once thought that no life would flourish.
Although they are prey for the wolves in the area, the horses seem to be thriving in a habitat that nobody expected to be a home to any life, least of all a horse that was near the brink of extinction not so long ago. Tourists now flock to the area, drawn by morbid curiosity to see the plant and take a tour of Pripyat, and also to see the wildlife that has reclaimed the area as its own.