Radioactive Wolves

1 x 52 min
Worldwide except for Germany and the USA

Many years after the biggest nuclear accident in history, wolves reign the radio-actively contaminated no-man’s-land, the so-called exclusion zone, of Chernobyl, which stretches from Ukraine into Belarus and Russia. After the explosion of the Chernobyl reactor on April 26, 1986, one city and some 150 villages were evacuated. About 340.000 people were displaced. Uninhibited by the presence of humans, a profusion of wild species has since taken over a territory of about 3.000 square kilometers, creating a new wilderness. At the top of this eco-system is the wolf. Curious about these rumors, Christoph and Barbara Promberger, carnivore experts from Germany and Austria who have conducted wolf studies around the world visited the zone to get a personal impression. They were overwhelmed by the obviously numerous presence of wolves in what has been called the Chernobyl Jungle and is officially the Polessie Radio-Active Reserve. The Prombergers were suprised by the fact that no-one had actually asked the questions that immediately sprung to their minds: How many wolves are there really in this area? How are the animals dealing with the radio-active pollution? Do they migrate to the zone from uncontaminated areas and then die? Or is there a resident population? If so, is it suffering or healthy, stable or even growing? Do wolves even spread from Chernobyl to other areas? Does the absence of humans outweigh the hazards of radio-activity? Christoph Promberger and his wife Barbara were granted permission from Belarusian and Ukrainian authorities to start a research program that should eventually provide answers to these questions. A camera team, commissioned by ORF, NDR, BBC and WNET, accompanied the two wolf experts and their successors in the study. The Prombergers began radio-collaring wolves in the zone and then handed the project over to native scientists. During the scientific and filming activities, the Prombergers met their Belorusian colleague Vadim Siderovich, Professor at the Academy of Sciences and doyen of carnivore research in Belarus. Professor Siderovich has studied wolf habitats in other areas of Belarus, building a valuable data base for comparison of wolf populations inside and outside the zone. His team took over the Chernobyl project initiated by the Prombergers. In collaboration with the scientific department of the radio-active reserve, the Academy of Sciences has now begun a long-term study of the Chernobyl wolf population. The Austrian-Belorusian camera team has spent more time in the forbidden zone than any media team in the past — about 100 shooting days, distributed over an entire year. It was the first foreign team to shoot in the Belorusian part of the zone and brought back the first aerials of the zone shot in 20 years. The result is the very first comprehensive image of the Chernobyl zone — a 360-degree-panoramic view of Europe’s wildest region which Christoph Promberger calls the world’s biggest open-air experimental lab — perhaps a window into a distant past before civilization and into a distant future after its collapse.

Awards: Japan Wildlife Festival (2013): Environment Conservation Encouragement Award (won)
Festival in Xanty-Mansijsk, Russia (2012): 1st Prize (won)
Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival (2011): Best Wildlife Habitat Program (won)

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