After the Chernobyl disaster, many things changed in that area and out of the survivors were some few hundred stray dogs that learned how to stay alive in what must have been baron conditions.
When the disaster happened people were not allowed to take their beloved pets with them as they evacuated the area after the nuclear disaster.
In the woods behind the Chernobyl power plant dogs run and roam, thin with fur and yellow eyes, the guide Igor grabs him by the snout, they briefly wrestle in the snow and He throws a stick for him into the trees!
The dog chases the stick and they move on again, until the dog returns with the stick, to drop it at his feet, ready for round two!
He throws the stick again, and he returns with it again, they are relieved he is friendly and playful.
Igor seemingly is very familiar with the dog, he throws snowballs for him, he catches and tries to chew them.
“This is Tarzan …He’s a stray who lives in the exclusion zone. His mum was killed by a wolf, so the guides look out for him, chuck a few sticks, play a few games. He’s only a baby, really …”
Along with Tarzan, there are another 300 strays there in the 2,600km² zone, they live alongside the moose and the lynx!
Wolves and hares have also found a home here too, in fact, there have been Mongolian horses and Belarusian bears recently introduced to the area, but too other animals have also come along too, but the dogs are native.
Chernobyl happened in 1986 and the area and the surrounding villages were completely evacuated of their human residents, but NOT allowed to take their pets to safety.
There is a terrible local tale telling of the dogs howling and trying to desperately climb onto the buses…
Soldiers were trying to push them out of the buses as heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors, please don’t kill our beloved pooch, she is a good dog.
Merciless squads were sent in to shot the animals, some still survived and it’s their descendants we see now!
The abandoned dogs have to endure the harsh Ukrainian winters, they don’t have any shelter and the increased levels or radiation shortens their lives too, few live beyond six years old.
There are some good points though too, the dogs that live near the zone checkpoints have had huts made for them by the guards, some gather near the local café wise to be able to get treats from the people that visit.
A local guide, Nadezhda Starodub, says:
“Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs.”
“There are no rules that forbid a visitor from handling them, but Nadezhda asks her charges to exercise the same common sense they would when approaching any stray ….so they try to avoid the dogs to stay on the safe side. But I love them.”
The stray dogs there get food and play sometimes from the visitors, their health and welfare are looked after by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-profit organization that helps communities affected by industrial accidents.
There are a total of three veterinary clinics in the area, including one inside the Chernobyl plant to look after the animals.
The clinics give treatment to emergencies and give vaccinations against rabies, parvovirus, distemper, and hepatitis.
Lucas Hixson, the fund’s co-founder, says:
“I don’t think we’ll ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them.”
This is achieved by neutering the dogs to keep a control on the population and to make the area generally safer for visitors too by lowing the number of stray dogs and caring for them properly.
The Chernobyl power plant was recently completely sealed under a new “sarcophagus” designed, engineered and built by multinational groups of experts.
We hope in years to come to the situation improves year on year for the lovely dogs that managed to survive!
Tarzan really is a perfect sign of global cooperation and kindness, please SHARE with your friends and family and raise awareness for these lovely dogs!