Norfolk's role in return from extinction of Chernobyl eagle

The greater spotted eagle has returned to Chernobyl

The greater spotted eagle has returned to Chernobyl - Credit: Valery Dombrovski

Norfolk scientists studying how wildlife is reacting to a nuclear disaster have discovered the re-emergence of a bird previously thought to be extinct.

Before the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, greater spotted eagles were locally extinct.

But with humans no longer frequenting the land surrounding the devastated site - known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) - the majestic species is rising from the ashes.

Scientists from charity the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have been working alongside colleagues in Belarus to assess how wildlife has been coping in the CEZ.

And the Thetford-based charity has helped discover that at last count there were up to 13 breeding pairs of the bird of prey in the zone.

The discovery was made as part of monitoring the 're-wilding' of the area, which has been devoid of human inhabitants due to the high levels of radioactivity caused by the nuclear explosion.

Dr Adham Ashton-Butt, lead BTO scientist on the Chernobyl project, said: "Our work shows that rewilding could be a valuable method to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystems."