Written by Daniela Frank, CNN Tokyo
There’s no way to avoid it in Tokyo.
Standing on a busy street corner, you can see a flock of yak-shaggy-headed owls resting among the weeds. Not far away, there’s a trio of white-tailed sea eagles slowly lifting out of the water. There’s also a flock of long-tailed ducks — apparently no native inhabitants of the region — further along.
These creatures live, and thrive, around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the plant at the center of Japan’s triple meltdowns in 2011.
“We have been delighted to see the recovery of biodiversity here, since the nuclear disaster, of course,” says Ikoko Kobayashi, of the Nature and Wildlife Research Institute. “In a few years, we hope to see more varieties of mammals back in the area again, and hopefully more birds and fish too.”
The recent finding about the owls is particularly interesting, she adds, as it reinforces the idea that they still belong to Japan. “Yak-shaggy-headed owls are thought to have originated in Asia, and migrate throughout Japan,” she says. “Of course, other mammals from other parts of the world could have fed on them in the past, but that’s really difficult to study.”
In the years following the meltdown, in 2013, wildlife wasn’t the only thing being affected. The surrounding area around the plant was under curfew, which seemed to have taken a toll on air quality for a while. But less than 10 years later, it seems the place is slowly reclaiming its old life.