CHERNOBYL AND OTHER PLACES WHERE ANIMALS THRIVE WITHOUT PEOPLE

Some disaster zones end up as accidental nature reserves: places where animals survive because humans aren't allowed in. (Full story: http://on.natgeo.com/1XbaglF)
  1. Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone, Ukraine: Nuclear Disaster
    Wolves, elk boar, bear, lynxes, deer, and dozens of other species are thriving inside the area evacuated after the Chernobyl disaster, a new study reports. The 1986 nuclear accident in Ukraine was one of the worst in history, forcing the evacuation of 116,000 people from 1,600 square miles of land. But today, wildlife populations are soaring in an area that bridges the border between Ukraine and Belarus. (Photograph by Sergey Gashchak, Chernobyl Center)
  2. Korean Demilitarized Zone: Military Lines
    The most heavily armed border in the world is called the demilitarized zone and runs 155 miles between North and South Korea. The 2.5-mile strip of land is dotted with landmines and is hemmed in by bunkers, trenches, walls, gates, barbed wire, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers—and is home to a surprising array of endangered species. (Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic Creative)
  3. Darién Gap, Colombia and Panama: Guerilla Territory
    The Pan-American Highway connects Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia on the southern tip of Argentina—except that it doesn’t. For about 50 miles on the border between Panama and Colombia, the road disappears. This gap is a haven for guerillas fighting the Colombian government, as well as for drug traffickers and migrants in the 2,220 square miles of Panama’s Darién National Park, which shelters endangered and threatened species.
  4. Iron Curtain, Europe: A Now-Fallen Divide
    Unlike Korea’s DMZ, the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain have long come down. Today this border has been transformed from a death strip into a lush ribbon of land that is home to some 1,200 species. It crosses 24 countries and runs around 7,700 miles from the northern tip of Europe to the Mediterranean.
  5. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado: Toxic Past
    Covering 25 square miles, this former World War II chemical weapons production facility is now home to prairie dogs, bald eagles, coyotes, deer, and a range of birds and plant species. Black-footed ferrets, American bison, and more than 330 other species wander through the short-grass prairie landscape of this reserve. (Photograph by David Zalubowski, AP)