Via The New York Times: Radioactive Boars in Fukushima Thwart Residents’ Plans to Return Home. Excerpt:
They descend on towns and villages, plundering crops and rampaging through homes. They occasionally attack humans. But perhaps most dangerous of all, the marauders carry with them highly radioactive material.
Hundreds of toxic wild boars have been roaming across northern Japan, where the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant six years ago forced thousands of residents to desert their homes, pets and livestock. Some animals, like cattle, were left to rot in their pens.
As Japan prepares to lift some evacuation orders on four towns within the more than 12-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant later this month, officials are struggling to clear out the contaminated boars.
Wild boar meat is a delicacy in northern Japan, but animals slaughtered since the disaster are too contaminated to eat. According to tests conducted by the Japanese government, some of the boars have shown levels of radioactive element caesium-137 that are 300 times higher than safety standards.
Officials have also expressed concern that returning residents may be attacked by the animals, some of which have settled comfortably in abandoned homes and have reportedly lost their shyness to humans.
Photographs and video footage of the crisis-hit Japanese towns and villages are reminiscent of Chernobyl, where wildlife continues to thrive despite high radiation levels in the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986. With the absence of humans, Chernobyl, in Ukraine, has become a refuge for all kinds of animals, including moose, deer, brown bear, lynx and even wolves.
Since the nuclear crisis in Fukushima in 2011, video footage taken by journalists has shown packs of badly unkempt dogs scampering across roads. Rat colonies have overrun abandoned supermarkets. Farmland, transformed into grassland, has became a perfect habitat for wild boars and foxes. Boars have caused about $854,000 in damage to agriculture in Fukushima prefecture, reported the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri.
Local authorities in towns across Fukushima have hired teams of hunters to cull the boars. It is unclear whether those efforts will pay off, or whether they’re enough to persuade former residents to return home.
Authorities in the town of Tomioka say they’ve killed 800 so far, but officials there say that’s not enough, according to Japanese media. The latest statistics show that in the three years since 2011, the number of boars killed in hunts has grown to 13,000 from 3,000.