To the surprise of many, some wildlife flourishes in Chernobyl, Ukraine, more than 25 years after the explosion at the nuclear power plant there.
After opening with a background chapter describing the 1986 disaster, evacuation and cleanup efforts, Johnson goes on to describe scientific studies on the wildlife in the area from which humans have been excluded. The present-day Exclusion Zone is an area along the Ukraine-Belarus border about the size of South Carolina. A very few human residents have returned; occasional visitors include scientists and journalists. But other large mammals survive. The author includes a scientist’s photographs of a red fox and a moose. Observers have seen wild boar and stray dogs. A herd of Przewalski's horses, captive-bred and released into this isolated area, seems to be flourishing. The author devotes chapters to radioactive bank voles, rodents that seem to have developed some resistance, and to barn swallows that, in contrast, display obvious abnormalities. Finally, she reminds readers that in 2011 the world experienced a similar nuclear meltdown, in Fukushima, Japan. Continued research on radiation effects is crucial. Still, life carries on. This clear presentation is supplemented with captioned photographs, explanatory boxes and a helpful map. The appropriate background and clear, easy-to-understand explanations make this one-of-a-kind title both accessible and interesting.
An important story clearly and engagingly told by an experienced science writer. (author’s note, glossary, source notes, bibliography, further resources, index) (Nonfiction.12-16)