After a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011, a colossal tsunami was unleashed. Claiming the lives of approximately 22,000 civilians, the earthquake and ensuing tsunami wreaked havoc on homes, buildings, and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Damage to the power plant’s piping facility, backup power storage, and external power source caused a leak of radioactive materials, which ran down to the plant’s main gate. Radioactive materials were also released into the air. One month after the disaster, an estimated 770,000 teraBecquerels of said radioactive materials had been disseminated into the atmosphere.

While the effects of the Fukushima nuclear crisis impacted and displaced 230,000 people, the crisis also severely damaged the ecosystem. Following the evacuation of the area’s human residents, colonies of rats made themselves in abandoned grocery stores and wild boars from the surrounding hills moved into towns. These boars, exposed to contaminated sites and vegetation, have been tested for radioactive cesium-137 and “have shown levels 300 times higher than safety standards” (de Freytas-Tamura).

As Japan prepares to repopulate the evacuated towns of Namie and Tomioka, these boars are proving problematic. Their populations have spiked drastically and will be difficult to remove or contain. Complicating matters further, these boars are no longer fearful of human presence, have discarded their former shyness, and may possibly attack returning residents.

Radioactive boars, in addition to posing a physical threat, will drastically alter the area’s industry and diet. Boar meat is considered a delicacy in Northern Japan, but with boars showing high levels of radioactive elements, they are not safe for consumption. Any boars hunted will likely be contaminated and hunters will not be able to sell its meat for profit.  Therefore, hunters may not be able to provide for themselves or their families. Those who depend on hunting wild game for their own consumption will also face difficulty in replacing their former food source. Diets may decrease in protein and may cause malnutrition-induced conditions. The mayor of Soma expressed his concern, stating, “I wish for the day to come when we can eat wild game again.”

This issue illuminates how little we know about the long term aftermath of nuclear disasters. In my opinion, this issue forces us to solve pressing questions: How can we mitigate the situation following a nuclear meltdown? How can we contain its effects? How can we reintegrate or reuse the contaminated area without risk to human and animal health? It may not directly affect us, but it shows how little we know and how much we need to figure out. There is a large need for solutions, and Fukushima’s radioactive boar situation is proof of that.

Cable News Network. “2011 Japan Earthquake – Tsunami Fast Facts.” CNN. Last modified March 5, 2017.—tsunami-fast-facts/.

de Freytas-Tamura, Kimiko. “Radioactive Boars in Fukushima Thwart Residents’ Plans to Return Home.” The New York Times. Last modified March 9, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Fukushima On The Globe. “The Earthquake and the Nuclear Accident: What Happened?” Fukushima On The Globe. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Ostin, Becky. “Japan Earthquake & Tsunami of 2011: Facts and Information.” Live Science. Last modified March 7, 2015. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Reid, David. “Radioactive Wild Boars Have Taken over Two Japanese Towns.” CNBC. Last modified March 10, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Taylor, Alan. “The Wild Boars of Fukushima.” The Atlantic. Last modified March 9, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.

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