Rewilding of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

  • Country:
  • Start year:
  • Location:
    Northern Ukraine, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) is located c. 100 km N of Kiev, 123 m above sea level.
  • Size (ha):
  • Area Type:
  • Type of protection:
    Restricted access for humans due to safety reasons

After a nuclear disaster that happened 30 years ago, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone became one of the wildest places in Europe. The area is occupied by diverse -including rare and endangered- species, making the place unique. The vision we as Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine have is that key mega-fauna species are present in stable populations, including wild grazers like horses and bison.

Landscape of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone


  • Habitat types: mixed, coniferous and broadleaved forests, meadows, mires, small rivers, post human habitats
  • Keystone species present: moose, gray wolf, lynx, brown bear, wild horse (Przewalski's horse)
  • Fauna (mega) species present: roe deer, red deer
  • Fauna species reintroduced: Przewalski's horse
  • Vegetation types present: At present, c. 60 % of the area is covered with forests (50 % of which is pine forest) and the remaining consists of abandoned arable grounds, meadows, pastures and human settlements.


  • Description: The CEZ covers an area of 207,000 ha, and falls entirely within the Polesie Lowland, Russian Plain. The area is fenced with metal nets. Along with c. 100 peasants still living in the CEZ, only a few other man have constant access to this area. Before the nuclear disaster, the CEZ consisted of farmlands with forest fragments.<br /> 31 Przewalski's horses were brought to the CEZ in 1998 and 1999 from „Askania Nova” Reserve and „Lazovski” stud farm. From this time a dynamic self-development of the population appeared, and currently the population number exceeds 100 individuals. The population number and structure is monitored each year. Plans for the nearest future assume the reintroduction of European bison as a complementary species for natural grazing in the area.
  • Aim: Natural forest self-development, natural grazing and predation. Natural restoration of ecosystems with the maximum presence of key mega-fauna species after human disturbance.
  • Vision: All key mega-fauna species are present in stable populations, strong and viable population of the wild horse (over 300 ind.), strong European bison population (over 300 ind.) and other herbivores: roe deer, red deer, moose, wild boar.
  • Accomplished in 10 years from now: Reintroduction of European bison, creation of at least 2 free living herds.
  • Uniqueness: Area of 207000 ha in Europe with minor interference of humans. Both species, free living wild horses and E. bison together on such vast area.
  • Results so far: Rewilding with wild horses in the approx. numbers 100-120 ind. in a stable self-developing population of a natural aged and social structure.
  • Flagship species: Feral horses
  • Other characteristics: Research


  • Inspirational value: Presence of all mega-fauna species, herbivores and predators, in a natural ecosystem dynamic.
  • Experience you would like to share: Experiences on rewilding horses
  • Experience you would like to gain: Reintroduction and management of E. bison
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