Macaque monkeys are taking over the area around Fukushima.

Nature Is Healing

Nine years after Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor melted down, nature and wildlife have reclaimed the area.

In particular, NPR reports, macaque monkeys, wild boars, and other animals made the nearby towns — abandoned by hundreds of thousands of people — their home. And now, as evacuation orders are lifted and people return, finding ways to coexist has become a serious challenge.

Warning Shots

To help scare off the new monkey inhabitants, local governments have subsidized massive amounts of fireworks. Citizens have been patrolling their towns and firing them whenever they see the monkeys, who were drawn to the towns to feast from the abandoned but still-growing gardens and fruit trees near residents' homes.

"Look, I think they're cute. I would absolutely never hurt them," Shuichi Kanno, a 79-year-old man who returned to his home near Minamisoma, told NPR. "None of this is their fault. It's nuclear power's fault. It's the fault of humans."

Finding Balance

The fireworks aren't a perfect fix. The macaques typically return a few days after being scared off, NPR reports, likely because people have been slow to trickle back into their former homes in part because of high radiation levels and the fact that they've been gone nearly a decade.

"I loved hiking, and foraging for wild vegetables, finding wild mushrooms. But now it's so dangerous," Kanno told NPR. "We can't have a relationship with nature anymore. It's gone."

READ MORE: In Rural Fukushima, 'The Border Between Monkeys And Humans Has Blurred' [NPR]

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