It’s been nearly six years to the day since a tsunami smashed into Fukushima, Japan, ruining the power and cooling systems of three nuclear reactors. The result was a “nuclear accident.”
Residents could no longer live there without great risk of radiation poisoning. Officials set up a perimeter for miles around the reactors, known as an exclusion zone. Now, former residents of four towns inside that zone are being invited back, but officials have found these towns have new inhabitants.
Packs of wild boar have taken up residence where people no longer live. They inhabit abandoned homes and cross vacant streets. They plunder nearby crops, and have caused around $854,000 in damage to agriculture in Fukushima. Officials have tried to get rid of the newcomers as they ready the towns for re-population, and at first there seemed to be a ready-made way to make that happen. Boar meat is a sought-after meal in northern Japan, and here is a huge supply. But these boars have been found to have levels of the radioactive element cesium-137 that are 300 times the safe limit for consumption. Unable to ship the boars off to market, Japanese officials are at a bit of a loss.
Officials roam the towns with air rifles and set traps to cull the population.
“After people left, they began coming down from the mountains and now they are not going back,” said Shoichiro Sakamoto, who leads a hunting group of 13, according to Reuters. “They found a place that was comfortable. There was plenty of food and no one to come after them.”
Government officials have dug mass graves, but as The Washington Post pointed out last year, an average male boar weighs around 200 pounds. Hundreds of boars roam these towns, and thousands have already been killed. Where to put millions of pounds of meat? The graves already dug are nearly full.
One city came up with a plan to incinerate the carcasses while filtering radioactive material, but The New York Times reports the city simply doesn’t have enough people on staff to burn them.
Many former residents have already said they don’t want to move back to their former homes at the end of the month, when that will become an option for the first time since the tsunami. They are concerned with radiation. Those who do move back may find themselves having to wrest their former homes from new residents unfazed by government attempts to get rid of them.