Wildlife is Thriving at the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Site

The University of Georgia
The University of Georgia

Stray puppies aren’t the only signs of life in the Chernobyl exclusion zone (CEZ). Aside from the employees who continue to clean up the aftermath of the 1986 nuclear power plant accident, the area is teeming with wildlife—and not three-headed mutant animals, as one might expect.

A new study published in the journal Food Webs paints a very different picture of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. By placing motion-activated cameras on site, researchers from the University of Georgia had the chance to see white-tailed eagles, wolves, raccoon dogs, mink, and the elusive Eurasian otter. They confined their research to the Polesie State Radiation Ecological Reserve (PSRER), a 2600-square-kilometer area surrounding the Pripyat River in present-day Belarus. The area is highly restricted, and the lack of people in the area helped contribute to the boom in wildlife, researchers wrote in their paper.

Earlier research from 2015 revealed that wolves and other animals were abundant in the region. In this latest study, researchers placed fish carcasses along the banks of rivers and canals to see what types of scavengers would take the bait. Fifteen different vertebrate species, including a variety of mammals and birds, were spotted over the course of the month-long study. Some of the animals had never been spotted there before.

“We’ve seen evidence of a diversity of wildlife in the CEZ through our previous research, but this is the first time that we’ve seen white-tailed eagles, American mink, and river otter on our cameras,” James Beasley, associate professor at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, said in a statement released by the University of Georgia.

This study helps researchers better understand the ecology of scavengers in the area, which is still contaminated with radioactive isotopes. The materials can pose health threats like cancer, cataracts, and digestive issues to humans. People are prohibited from staying in Chernobyl for longer than three weeks at a time.

For the First Time Ever, a Mammal Has Been Declared Extinct Due to Climate Change

The Whitsunday Islands in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
The Whitsunday Islands in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
iStock.com/4FR

An Australian rat-like rodent called the Bramble Cay melomys is the first known mammal wiped out by manmade climate change, The Hill reports. The now-extinct animal (Melomys rubicola) lived on the tiny, uninhabited island of Bramble Cay in the Great Barrier Reef. Despite exhaustive efforts to track down the melomys over seven years, no signs of the rodent could be found, and in 2016, Queensland’s state government declared the animal extinct.

These fears were confirmed when news broke this week that the national government had quietly changed the rodent’s classification from endangered to extinct. Meanwhile, the status of a fruit bat called the spectacled flying-fox was changed from vulnerable to endangered after a recent heatwave in north Queensland, which dealt another blow to a population that had already been cut in half over the last decade.

As for the Bramble Cay melomys, its demise can be attributed to rising sea levels, storm surges, and other weather events that have worsened due to climate change. According to The Revelator, the tides destroyed about 97 percent of the island’s vegetation, which was the rodent’s only food source.

Leeanne Enoch, Queensland's Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the latest animal extinction is evidence “we are living the real effects of climate change right now.”

In a 2018 study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund, researchers found that up to half of the 80,000 plant and animal species that reside in 35 of the world’s most diverse areas could become extinct by the turn of the century because of climate change.

For some species, it’s already too late. A Hawaiian bird called the poo-uli (or black-faced honeycreeper) was declared extinct last year, largely due to diseases carried by mosquitoes, which thrive in warmer climates. For other endangered species in the U.S.—like the black-footed ferret, red wolf, and rusty patched bumble bee—there might still be time to step in and protect them.

[h/t The Hill]

A Fort Hood Mule With 12 Years of Army Experience Is Looking for a Forever Home

iStock.com/PamWalker68
iStock.com/PamWalker68

Attention, animal lovers: A mule in Fort Hood, Texas with more than a decade of U.S. Army experience is up for adoption. Tina the Army mule has been a part of the Fort Hood military base's 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment for most of her life, and now KWTX reports that she needs a place to spend her retirement.

Foaled in 1999, the Fort Hood 1st Cavalry adopted Tina in 2006. Since then, she has assisted in parades, weapons demonstrations, cavalry charges, and color guards for the division. She has experience pulling an M1878 Escort wagon in a harness as well as standing by calmly for ceremonies.

She worked as a draft mule until 2018, and now that she's retiring, Fort Hood officials are looking to find her a forever home. Tina has no health problems or dietary restrictions and enjoys eating Coastal Bermuda hay and pasture grass. Her sister Dolly, who died of bone cancer in 2018, was the only mule she's ever been paired with. Though Tina can perform light solo work, her new owners should be cautious about pairing her with another mule.

If you're interested in making Tina a part of your family, Fort Hood would like to hear from you. You can contact the current owners by emailing your request along with any questions to 1CDHorseCavalryDetachment@gmail.com by March 7. Once your inquiry is received, you'll be sent an application packet with instructions on how to proceed.

[h/t KWTX]

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