Left behind in the most horrific radioactive disaster in history, hundreds of feral dogs have found a way to survive in the cold Ukrainian jungle, and also with deadly concentrations of radiation.
Journalist Julie McDowall and her colleagues entered the woods behind Chernobyl. Before their eyes is a cold and beautiful scene, but known as the “dead land”, it is the place where the most terrible radioactive disaster in the history of mankind took place.
Then a dog came running in, with a lean body with ragged fur and yellow eyes. He rushed to attack Igor – the group’s guide. The two struggled for a while in the snow, then Igor grabbed a stick and threw it down. The dog’s eyes light up, leaping away, allowing the group to keep moving forward.
But very quickly, the dog came back sucking the stick that Igor had thrown. At this point, the whole group laughed in relief. Because it turns out that the dog is Igor’s “acquaintance”.
“This child’s name is Tarzan,” said Igor. “He lived in a remote area. His mother was killed by a wolf, so a team of guides took care of him, teaching him things he could be close to. Looks like but the boy is still very young. .. ”
Dogs abandoned in “dead land”
Tarzan isn’t the only dog in Chernobyl. This entire 2,600 square kilometer area is isolated, home to around 300 wild dogs. They live with deer, lynx, hares, wolves … But the difference is that the animals mentioned above only come here and develop when humans are extinct. As for dogs, Chernobyl has also been their home since birth.
When the Chernobyl disaster struck in 1986, the entire city of Pripyat and surrounding villages were in an emergency evacuation situation. The problem is that they are not allowed to bring pets for safety reasons.
“The dogs howled, trying to follow the owner to jump on the bus, but failed.” – quoted in the Chernobyl prayer, one of the most authentic books of this catastrophe. “The soldiers pushed them back, chased them away, but they ignored him, still chasing them for a long time.”
“The families hurriedly stuck the pieces of paper on the door, hoping no one would harm their dog. But there was no mercy. Many troops were sent to bring them down.
A little luck survived the rain of bullets, but the master was no longer there. They officially became wild dogs in Chernobyl and began a life associated with a daily struggle for survival.
Overcome adversity, become a crowded “gang of dogs”
The new life of the Chernobyl stray dog is a series of difficult days. Without humans, they face the infamous harsh winter of homeless Ukraine. Not to mention the extremely high radioactive residue that attaches to the hairs, making their lifespan dizzying. At that time, it was rare for dogs to live 6 years.
But in misfortune there is still luck. The dogs living near the checkpoint were built by the soldiers to shelter them. They are also smart enough to always congregate around coffee shops, knowing that having humans is food too. And even, people also consider them Chernobyl mascots, standing out to greet passengers when visiting a cafe named Desyatka in this area.
“People find them cute, but most people think they’re radioactive, so always avoid them and don’t touch them.” – to quote Nadezhda Starodub, a guide for people wishing to visit Chernobyl.
In fact, there are no regulations prohibiting visitors from accessing the dogs, but Nadezhda has yet to ask them not to do so. “Some people on the team don’t want to deal with dog complaints, so they try to avoid them.”
However, life for the gang of 300 feral dogs in Chernobyl is now less difficult. Food and drink, they were obtained from visitors. In terms of health, they are managed by an American non-profit organization called the “Clean Futures Fund”. The organization has set up three veterinary stations in the area, including one inside the quarantine area. The stations play a role in vaccination against rabies, parvo and other diseases dangerous to dogs. They also help in the sterilization of dogs to control their population.
“I don’t think this area will be short of dogs, but we need to reduce the range that we can control, to make feeding and maintenance easier,” said Lucas Hixson, co-founder of the organization. .