Chernobyl's wildlife sanctuary
A large, rusted iron gate swings open and we drive into Chernobyl's fire station.
The place is still manned. Firemen patrol the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power plant checking for wildfires in this now very overgrown wilderness.
But this small, ramshackle collection of buildings also has another use. It has become a tiny wildlife sanctuary.
"This sanctuary was established for animals that have health problems; animals that were rescued from the exclusion zone," explains Igor Chizhevsky, a biologist from Chernobyl's state-run SSSIE Ecocentre.
Igor's friend, a trained vet named Alexander (Sasha) Borovsky, set up the sanctuary 10 years ago.
End Quote Igor Chizhevsky Chernobyl Ecocentre
Each animal has a different story”
Sacha is an imposing hulk of a man, but with a very softly spoken manner. Igor translates as we take a short tour around this small collection of well-kept enclosures.
"When Sasha came to Chernobyl, he established the sanctuary because he loves wild animals," Igor explains.
Today the sanctuary is home to a wolf, a fox, a racoon dog and a wild boar.
"Each animal has a different story," says Igor.
The wolf arrived just a year ago, when one of Chernobyl's forest patrols found the injured cub.
"It had been bitten by a dog and was hurt," says Igor. "These men brought the wolf to Sasha and the wolf has grown here and now he has good health."
The sanctuary is not open to everyone; but for a small fee, Sasha will agree to a brief guided tour. The money, he says, helps buy food for the animals.
"All of these animals came from the exclusion zone," says Igor.
"It's not a surprise; the exclusion zone has very rich wildlife. Many species live here."