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Radioactive Boars Are Roaming Around Germany

The boar’s meat is too contaminated from Chernobyl’s radiation to be fit for human consumption

A wild boar mama in Germany. (Photo: Frank Sommariva/imagebroker/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl occurred nearly three decades ago, but the radioactive legacy it has left on the landscape still continues today. Those impacts are not just felt in Ukraine and nearby Belarus, however, but in several European countries hundreds of miles away. Wind and rain deposited the radiation-laden plume soon after the disaster took place, and researchers tracked it east to Moscow, west to Poland, as far north as Sweden and Finland, and southwest to Germany. 

Radioactive wild boars roaming the forests of Germany are one lasting legacy of that widespread contamination, the Telegraph writes. Because wild boar feed on radiation-caching mushrooms and other organic material found in soils, they are thought to be at a higher risk for radiation contamination. In Saxony, for example, more than one in three wild boars that were trapped and tested for radiation contamination turned out to have such high levels of those pollutants (more than 600 becquerels per kg) that they were unfit for human consumption.

Wild boars are often hunted for their meat, a delicacy in the region. Since 2012, however, hunters have been required to test the meat of any boar they trap before they sell it, although the German government compensates them for their losses—to the sum of hundreds of thousands of euros per year, the Telegraph reports. Germany won't have to worry about radiation for as long as Chernobyl, where radiation levels will remain high for up to 48,000 years, but, to be on the safe side, no one should be eating untested wild boar for at least another 50 years.

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