In April and May 1986, reactor four at the Chernobyl nuclear plant melted down. Over the course of ten days, it pored out radioactive isotopes that blanketed the area. They killed the pine trees surrounding the plant in a matter of days. Now, the area remains one of the most contaminated ecosystems on Earth.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone encompasses 1,600 square miles or norther Ukraine and southern Belarus and is guarded by armed military. The levels of radiation within the zone are dangerous. After the meltdown, the Soviet government took drastic measures to contain the radiation as best they could.
They scraped away the topsoil, sprayed the area with chemicals meant to trap radiation close to the ground, evacuated nearby villages and slaughtered livestock. They left a barren moonscape.Since then, nature has begun to take over again. Not only has the vegetation returned, but wild animals now roam the area.
Bears, boars, owls and wolves have all been spotted in the area. Ironically, since no humans live in the Exclusion Zone, it has become a sanctuary for biodiversity, particularly the wildlife. With no humans there to hunt them, these animals are able to thrive despite the radioactivity.