The 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl sent shock waves around the world. The Ukrainian city became a wasteland in the wake of the tragedy and nobody has lived there for more than 30 years. At least nobody on two legs!
120,000 people were evacuated from the area after the explosion. They were only permitted to travel with what they could carry and so were forced to leave their dogs behind. The descendants of the abandoned pooches still live around the power plant having been driven out of the nearby woods by wolves.
Living on Scraps
There are around 900 stray dogs in Chernobyl. 3,500 people still work at the nuclear plant and the dogs are drawn to it by the rubbish and food which these workers discard. The staff often take pity on the dogs and feed them and even take them into the plant during the harsh Ukrainian winters.
There are very few mature dogs to be found in the exclusion zone. Volunteers have found that most of the dogs are under 5 years old as most die young due to malnutrition, lack of medical care and the effects of radiation.
The Dogs of Chernobyl Project
Now, The Dogs of Chernobyl project, established by the American non-for-profit organisation Clean Futures Fund, is using the dogs to help monitor radiation levels in the region whilst providing the medical care that they need. Volunteers and experts from across the globe are participating in the initiative. The stray dogs help in the study of radiation but also receive much-needed treatment. The dogs are vaccinated and neutered and then fitted with special collars.
Participants in the project capture the stray pooches, study their radiation exposure and provide veterinary treatment. The dogs are then released again into the exclusion zone around the power plant so they can be tracked. The collars they are fitted with feature radiation sensors so that radiation levels across the area can be monitored. This is a huge boon to researchers as radiation levels can now be monitored in areas which are unsafe for humans to access.
Volunteers have found radiation levels in the dogs which are as much as 20 times higher than normal. The project is enabling scientists to map radiation levels across the entire exclusion zone. This simply wouldn’t be possible without the canine helpers.
A Win Win Situation
The Dogs of Chernobyl is a fabulous project which benefits both the dogs and mankind. The strays play a valuable role in scientific research whilst receiving the veterinary care that they desperately need. The Clean Futures Fund is appealing for charitable donations to finance the ongoing cost of vaccinations and the neutering programme.