Fukushima Has Been Taken Over by Radioactive Boars

Lowell Silverman via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5
Lowell Silverman via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5 / Lowell Silverman via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5

It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel or perhaps a tabloid, but the situation is real: Wild boars contaminated with radioactive particles have occupied neighborhoods in the prefecture of Fukushima, Japan, making it even harder for former residents to return to their homes, The New York Times reports.

The 2011 meltdown of Fukushima’s nuclear power plant required around 300,000 people to evacuate their homes, according to NBC. As humans moved out, local wildlife moved in, oblivious to the invisible threat. Rats, dogs, foxes, and boars have claimed the ghost-town supermarkets and irradiated, overgrown farmland for their own.

Radiation has significantly dissipated over the last six years, and officials intend to lift evacuation orders on four towns later this month. Scientists say contamination levels are low enough in some areas for people to safely return to their homes.

But direct contamination is not the only obstacle. The boars now squatting in houses and storefronts are both territorial and intensely radioactive, making them unfriendly and dangerous neighbors.

To clear out the cities, local authorities are turning to Japan’s long history of game hunting. They’ve recruited hunters to cull the animals and put out a guidebook full of boar-elimination tips, including setting traps and even using drones.

One official quoted in The New York Times said, “It’s important to set up an environment that will make it tough for the boars to live in.”

Since 2014, hunters have killed 13,000 boars; the carcasses have been buried en masse or incinerated in specially designed furnaces that filter out radioactive particles. Nevertheless, concerns over residual radiation and the plant itself may keep many people from going home.

“If the national officials think it is so safe, then they should come and live here,” former dairy farmer and evacuee organizer Kenichi Hasegawa told the Times in 2015.

[h/t The New York Times]