Radioactive boar legacy of nuke blast

By Justin Huggler

Contamination of many hunted wild pigs high almost 30 years after Chernobyl

Kevin Milne, the host of Fair Go, seen here in Chernobyl.
Kevin Milne, the host of Fair Go, seen here in Chernobyl.

Twenty-eight years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, its effects are still being felt as far away as Germany - in the form of radioactive wild boar.

The animals still roam the forests of Germany, where they are hunted for their meat, which is sold as a delicacy. But recent tests by the state government of Saxony found more than one in three boar registers such high levels of radiation the meat is unfit for human consumption.

Relations between the boar and German society are already mixed. Outside the hunting community, wild boar are seen as a menace by many. Motorways have to be closed when wild boar wander on to them, and they sometimes enter towns - in 2010 a herd attacked a man in a wheelchair in Berlin.

The issue of radioactive boar, however, is believed to be a legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, when a reactor at a nuclear power plant in then Soviet-ruled Ukraine exploded, releasing a huge quantity of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.

Wind and rain carried the radioactivity across western Europe, contaminating soil.

Wild boar are thought to be particularly affected because they root through the soil for food, and feed on mushrooms and underground truffles that store radiation. Many mushrooms from the affected areas are also believed to be unfit for human consumption.

Since 2012, it has been compulsory for hunters to have wild boar they kill in Saxony - about 1125km from Chernobyl - tested for radiation. Carcasses that exceed the safe limit of 600 becquerels per kg have to be destroyed.

Now, in one year, 297 of 752 boar tested in Saxony have been over the limit, and there have been cases in Germany of boar testing dozens of times over the limit.

The radioactivity is causing economic problems as well. Many hunters sell the meat, and the German Government is having to pay thousands of euros a year in compensation to hunters whose kills have to be destroyed.

"It doesn't cover the loss from game sales, but at least it covers the cost of disposal," Steffen Richter, head of the Saxon State Hunters Association, told Bild newspaper.

Based on the tests, experts predict the problem could continue for 50 years.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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