Civilization is nature’s biggest threat. The more the population increases, the more nature loses. We live in times when forests are being cut down to create more room for human activity. Interestingly, sometimes, nature “fights back” by reclaiming spaces previously occupied by humans. Here are 9 such occasions when this has happened.

1. Fukushima in Japan

After an earthquake hit Japan in 2011, the town of Fukushima was hit by a severe nuclear accident, creating the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, which stretched for 12.5 miles. As a result, more than 150,000 people were evacuated by the government to prevent radiation exposure.

Given the known effects of a nuclear accident and radiation exposure, it was assumed that the Fukushima Exclusion Zone would never be fit for any natural activity again. On the contrary, more than a decade later, Fukushima is thriving with plants and wildlife, even in the areas declared off-limits by the government.

In Fukushima, you can find boars, red foxes, raccoon dogs, and Japanese Macaques. If anything, the wildlife population in the region got so high that the government again had to intervene.

2. The Demilitarized Zone in South and North Korea

When the Korean War ended, the area dividing North and South Korea was vacated and declared no-man’s land. Initially, the Demilitarized Zone was occupied by soldiers and smaller villages. Since humankind’s departure, the area has become a beautiful ecosystem.

There are Manchurian Trout, Mongolian Racerunner Lizard, musk deer, and more than 200 endangered species. You can also find thousands of plant species there. A few years ago, nearby residents created hiking trails along the Demilitarized Zone.

3. St Kilda in Scotland

Soay sheep in St Kilda.

Initially, St Kilda was a growing island with a thriving population. However, this island was cut off from the mainland, and the locals did not have access to food and medical care. Therefore, the region was abandoned, with the last group leaving the island in 1930.

From the look of things, nature was waiting for humans to abandon St Kilda to develop into the wildlife hotspot it is now. The mountainous environment created the ideal breeding spot for seabirds, whose population is currently estimated to be 1 million. It is also home to Soay Sheep, gannets, wren, boreray, and hirta. St Kilda has attained the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Al Madam in the UAE

While most abandoned towns turn green when humans leave, Al Madam in the UAE was reclaimed by the desert, and everything in this village turned yellow. Just a few miles from Dubai lies the ghost town of Al Madam, where everything is covered by sand.

Al Madam is believed to have been a housing project started in the 1970s. It initially had a population of 100 people before people left for major cities like Dubai in search of better living conditions and employment. Today, the region is a tourist attraction, and one can explore the abandoned sand-covered structures, including a mosque.

5. Stack Rock Fort in Wales

The Stack Rock Fort was built in the 1850s by the Wales military as a cover for protecting the mainland against sea invasions and housed weapons and soldiers. Surprisingly, the fort was abandoned a few years after it was built but was reoccupied in World War I before being abandoned for the second time in 1929.

In the almost 100 years that Stack Rock Fort was abandoned, nature has created a thriving fortress. Stack Rock Fort is home to at least 300 gulls and other seabirds. There are also hazel plants growing inside the structure. It’s currently being managed by Nicholas Mueller, who intends to ensure that this fort continues to be a living ruin.

6. Snake Island in Brazil

Locally known as Ilha da Queimada Grande, Snake Island in Brazil was home to sailors and lighthouse security guards in the early 1900s. However, in 1920, the island, which boasts low tropical forests and cliffs, was abandoned and turned into a protected area by the Brazilian government.

Part of nature’s takeover of the Ilha da Queimada Grande turned it into the home of the largest colony of golden lancehead snakes, lizards, bats, and various seabird species.

7. Mangapurua Valley in New Zealand

Soldiers returning from World War I were allocated the area around Mangapurua Valley in New Zealand, with about 40 settling there with their families in 1919. However, by 1940, almost everyone had vacated the Mangapurua Valley.

There were a couple of reasons behind this mass migration. First, the village had bad soil, which didn’t support agriculture. Second, the town was located in a very remote area, which made it inaccessible to other towns.

When all the soldiers left, nature reclaimed its environment. The village is now covered with marshland and grass. Most of the houses are covered by trees, and the famous “Bridge to Nowhere” is located there.

8. Houtouwan in China

Houtouwan was a growing fishing hub on Shengshan Island, China. However, in the 1990s, people started leaving the village for other bustling cities to access medical care, jobs, and other opportunities. The remotely located Houtouwan was a ghost town by 2002.

Without any human activity, nature began reclaiming the region. Today, houses are covered by green vegetation and have become tourist attractions. However, visitors are advised to be careful because the structures there are weak.

9. Okunoshima in Japan

In the 1920s, the island of Okunoshima in Japan was used for chemical weapon tests by the government. Therefore, it was off-limits and was labeled “Poison Gas Island.” When the authorities stopped running those tests, Okunoshima was reclaimed by nature and converted into Rabbit Island, hosting thousands of the species. It is a popular tourist destination, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

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Last Update: July 1, 2024