Fukushima: Giant geese flourish after nuclear disaster

Image copyright AFP Image caption Yuji Toda’s giant goose is the ‘biggest to ever be found in Fukushima’

More than a year after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, this species of goose is thriving and at large in Japan.

Scientists found two wild geese – believed to be some of the largest ever recorded in Japan – in fields outside Fukushima.

It is thought the birds fled the area to escape radiation and became caught up in pesticides and fertility drugs.

One scientist said the feathered refugees were making “a full recovery”.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Some of the giant geese were tracked to large poultry farms outside Fukushima

How much radiation was there?

An initial assessment from 2013 put the proportion of ionising radiation above background at up to 20% in the three Fukushima prefectures (Tohoku, Fukushima and Miyagi).

Writing in the journal BioScience in November 2014, scientists said further studies were needed.

The experts from the University of Tokyo and Japan’s national Institute of Environmental Investigation have come up with new findings based on more research in the area.

Dr Hideaki Iijima, a biologist at the Japanese Academy of Sciences, believes the birds are making a full recovery, despite high levels of radiation.

“I think it is very interesting that those wild geese are thriving in farmland… that is a very unusual case,” he told BBC News.

“The way to evaluate the radiation level is that it is to see how healthy the population is.”

The geese are surviving

Image copyright AFP

Reporter John Allen uses his own family to draw similarities between the legacy of the nuclear disaster and the resilience of Japan’s wildlife.

“I just returned from Fukushima and it is unbelievable how often we heard news about people living under plastic bags or cases for shelter or radioactive water leaking from the plant,” he said.

“But the amount of wildlife that’s doing well is astounding.

“My family had heard of massive landslides that killed and wounded as many as 60 people, the military had seen ongoing radiation, and people were being kept in shadow in some places.

“But in the countryside near my own house, we saw three dancing geese and saw the recovery of plants that had been poisoned by the military to prevent the spread of radiation.”

“Wild geese are resilient… and they’ll recover and the government will still do what they do.”

A BBC request for comment from the Japanese ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries was not answered by the time of publication.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry told the BBC in December that Fukushima was recovering faster than some other municipalities affected by the disaster, such as one in Anahama prefecture.

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