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Human effects on wildlife worse than radiation: Chernobyl study

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New York: A team of international researchers has discovered abundant wildlife population at Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear accident that released radioactive particles into the environment and forced a massive evacuation.

Abundant with moose, roe deer, wild boar and wolves, the disaster site in Ukraine looks more like a nature preserve than a disaster zone – nearly 30 years after the world’s largest nuclear accident, the researchers reported.

Previous studies in the 1,621-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone showed evidence of major radiation effects and significantly reduced populations of wildlife.

For the first time since the Chernobyl accident, researchers have long-term census data that reveal thriving wildlife populations in the zone.

Our data are a testament to the resiliency of wildlife when freed from direct human pressures such as habitat loss, fragmentation and persecution,” said study co-author James Beasley, assistant professor of wildlife ecology at University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina, US.

“The multi-year data clearly show that a multitude of wildlife species are abundant throughout the zone, regardless of the level of radiation contamination,” Beasley noted.

“This does not mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming and forestry, are a lot worse,” team coordinator Jim Smith, professor of environmental science at the University of Portsmouth in Britain explained.

The number of moose, roe deer, red deer and wild boar living in the zone are similar to numbers in nearby uncontaminated nature reserves in the region, the results showed.

The census data on wolves in the area indicated they are seven times greater in number than those living in the nearby reserves.

Aerial census data collected from 1987-96 revealed rising numbers of moose, roe deer and wild boar in the zone.

The findings appeared in the journal Current Biology.

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Cheetahs in Malawi: Poaching and Wildlife Trafficking endangers Africa’s most Iconic Species

A total of four cheetahs – two males and two females – were airlifted to Liwonde National Park in Malawi from South Africa in May

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Cheetahs back from the brink in Malawi
The cheetahs spent their first three weeks in an enclosure before being released into Liwonde National Park in Malawi. VOA
  • Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi has just welcomed some new inhabitants – four cheetahs
  • Liwonde National Park has a population of 12,000 large mammals including bush buck, water buffalo, and antelope
  • Park officials say they also plan to reintroduce leopards and lions to restore the park’s lost glory

LIWONDE NATIONAL PARK, MALAWI, June 10, 2017: Poaching and wildlife trafficking have endangered some of Africa’s most iconic species and the loss of the animals has cost African countries critical tourism revenue.

But at least one national park is getting a second chance. Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi has just welcomed some new inhabitants – four cheetahs relocated there from South Africa courtesy of the nonprofit African Parks group.

Park rangers lured the first cheetah out into its new home with a fresh carcass. It’s the first cheetah Malawi has had in the wild in two decades.

The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, but even that couldn’t protect the species in Malawi. Poachers killed off the cheetahs’ prey and ultimately the cheetahs themselves.

“They were last seen in Malawi about 20 years ago,” said Craig Reid of the Liwonde National Park. “Specifically in Liwonde area, they have been absent for over a 100 years. So, as part of the rehabilitation of the park, we feel it is very important to bring back the cheetah to Malawi and Liwonde specifically.”

A total of four cheetahs – two males and two females – were airlifted to Liwonde from South Africa in May.

Before being released into the park, the cheetahs spent their first three weeks in an enclosure to allow them to become acclimated to their new surroundings.

Liwonde National Park has a population of 12,000 large mammals. These include bush buck, water buffalo and antelope.

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The cheetah is the first large predator to be reintroduced to the park.

“We have a very healthy animal base and now that the protection measures are in place as we have got a very good law enforcement in the park,” Reid said. “The numbers of animals are increasing very rapidly and, as a result to that, there are more than enough animals to provide for some carnivorous animals such as the cheetah”.

Officials are holding meetings with communities surrounding the park.

“Those people are likely to face danger,” said David Nongoma of African Parks. “And our message to the community is to say that…they refrain from entering the park and stop doing what they used to be doing because these animals are definitely very dangerous. They can kill a human being.”

Park officials say they also plan to reintroduce leopards and lions to restore the park’s lost glory. (VOA)

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