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The first comprehensive study of bird sightings around the Fukushima nuclear power plant since the disaster

The first comprehensive study of bird sightings around the Fukushima nuclear power plant since the disaster

Wildlife is flourishing around Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, according to Tokyo-based researchers.

A new study estimated that the number of bird species around the crippled nuclear power plant site dropped by more than half compared with a similar survey done just three years ago, even though the birds were not affected by the disaster.

The research, released online on Nov. 3, is the first comprehensive evaluation of bird sightings in the 20-km (12-mile) zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since its destruction in March 2011.

“This is a very encouraging news,” said Satoshi Kanamori of Japan’s Environment Ministry as he presented the findings during a news conference. “I hope this kind of study will be conducted by other government agencies.”

The report was drawn up by a group of university researchers and scientists from the Tokyo and Osaka branches of the Wildlife Society, which has long been concerned about the effects of the 2011 disaster on Japan’s delicate environment and wildlife.

The study was based on observations made between 2010 and 2014. It surveyed bird sightings in a 20-km (12-mile) radius around the Fukushima plant, both before and during the 2011 disaster, and determined how many species had vanished.

The survey also determined how many birds were likely to have returned to the area, and to what extent and in what numbers, and whether or not they were in decline or healthy.

The findings showed that many bird species survived the aftermath of the nuclear accident, including parrots, robins and crows. However, there had been a substantial drop in the numbers of migrant birds, especially those of the sparrow variety.

“These bird species are still declining but have grown back to the original number,” said Kazuhiro Okuyama of the Environment Ministry. “We are now very confident that the bird species can adapt to the post-disaster environment at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and return to a normal state.”

As for the numbers of birds showing a decline or being in decline, however, the researchers concluded that all had recovered to a reasonable amount. The only decline was that reported in birds of the sparrow variety.

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