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Gone to the Dogs - 5 Abandoned Places that Animals Have Reclaimed

By Edited Aug 3, 2014 4 6

You know how you get up in the middle of the night and your dog steals your spot on the bed? Or how your cat sees that your laptop keyboard is open and decided to plop right down on the keys? Well, it seems that animals are all such opportunists. Our household pets are in the small time though. Animals around the world have taken to moving right into humanity's abandoned places just shortly after we move right out of them. Here are a few glorious places where humans once thrived, but now they have all gone to the dogs (or cats, or fish, or camels...)

chernobyl wildlife

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine

While the Chernobyl zone is closed for the next 20,000 years to unauthorized humans, the 1986 disaster has had a little bit of hope shine through as an impromptu wildlife refuge. The wildlife of the region is rather rapidly repopulating Chernobyl ground zero and the surrounding forests for better or for worst. While the radiation has caused a number of problems with the wildlife that have called it home, they are protected there. The wildlife serves as subjects to study the long term effects of radiation and prove to repopulate better than in controlled areas. While human poachers are still problem for deer, wolves, wild dogs and other animals even with radiation, the animals are protected for the study and are thriving in it. Though it comes with the price of increased tumors, cataracts, birth defects and abnormalities.

aral desert camels

The Aral Desert on the Border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

The Aral Desert used to be the Aral Sea, half the size of England and the fourth largest body of water in the world. However, Aral Desert is now a lesson in overpopulation. This once large lake has shrunk to 10% of its original size, spread out over three lakes. It was once a prosperous fishing area but due to dramatic overfishing and the majority of the rivers that fed it being diverted into the more arid regions of Russia to fuel their cotton production, what was once the Aral Sea became known as one of the worst environmental disasters in the world. The once saline lake is now too concentrated with salt to support any marine life and took much of the flora and fauna with its waters. Now with most of the water gone, the sea has become a desert with long swatches of sand dotted with rusty old fishing boats left abandoned in this sea of earth.

While the fishing industry is long gone and most of the people that lived on the lake moved on to greener pastures, the area is not all forgotten. It is now home to a number of camel herds. These camels feast on the little vegetation that still grows in the area and have adapted to drinking the salty water that remains in the lake, much like the camels in the Gobi desert. Now the rusted out ships are their playground.



cats of the roman coliseum

Roman Coliseum in Rome, Italy

The Coliseum in Rome once housed roaring crowds that were hungry for the blood and spectacle of gladiators, but it is home to quieter crowds of eager tourists. While human visitors still frequent this ruin, it has long since been claimed by an animal. After being abandoned in the 10th century, the massive sprawling basement of the Coliseum has become the home of stray cats that in turn started their families in the ruins. Now the ruins are home to over 200 stray cats that hang out in places all over the attraction. They are all quite the divas too, many tourists end up taking at least one picture of these Coliseum cats whether they mean to or not.

Interestingly enough, unlike most other major cities that would be appalled at a growing number of stray cats, Rome has recognized that these animals have an ancient bond with their city. In 2001, they even named the cats of the Coliseum as part of their city's "bio-heritage."

peruvian hairless dog

Huaca Pucllana in Peru

Huaca Pucllana was once a great adobe city built by the Lima natives on the Peruvian Coast. It was abandoned in 900 AD, however one part of their culture stays--their dogs. The Huaca Pucllana ruins in Peru are home to the rare Peruvian Hairless Dog that has lived in this area for 3,000 years. These dogs, that sport only a little hair usually on their tails or in the form of a badass mohawk, were used for hunting and company by pre-Incan cultures like the Chimu, Moche and Chancay that lived along the coast.

After the Spanish conquistadors took to fighting their massive war hounds against this susceptible local breed for sport, many of the hairless hounds took to the wild, feeding off the mollusks of the coast. Even in the modern day they are hunted for their skins which are thought to ease arthritis or to make thermal bags, as locals believe that their skins retain warmth better (which they don't.)

In order to safeguard this near-extinct breed, archeologists took to keeping a pair or more at their ancient home, in ruins like Huaca Pucllana. This is thanks to a 1989 initiative to save their lives. Some sites even breed them to sell as luxury export due to their unique looks. However, they still continue to serve as the friendly guardians to coastal Peru's many ruins.

koi fish in new world shopping mall in bangkok

New World Shopping Mall in Bangkok, Thailand

The New World Shopping Mall in Bangkok used to be an average mall packed with department stores where locals went to run their daily errands. In 1997, seven of the 11 floors of the mall were demolished by the city after they found out that the owner only had permission to build four floors. Shortly after in 1999 it was left gutted and beyond repair by a devastating fire. This fire and the demolition left the building roofless and exposed to the elements. Unfortunately, it began to rain after that and the ground floor was flooded with water, which also brought tons of mosquitoes. Obviously, this was a major problem for the locals, so to combat this they introduced fish to eat the mosquitoes. So thus, the New World Shopping Mall became a large urban pond filled with koi fish and catfish to fuel their small ecosystem. A few locals showed up every day to feed the fish, but soon even outsiders began to show up to see the splendor. Now the fish has multiplied to the extreme and serve as one of the major spectacles in the city.



Sep 24, 2014 4:22am
I'd read about the animals moving into the Chernobyl zone a few years back (fascinating how they can adapt), but the rest of this is new to me. Interesting topic! Thanks - a good read.
Sep 24, 2014 7:28am
This is a really interesting article! Love the badass mohawk dogs.
Sep 24, 2014 10:43am
Very interesting, and funny. Thanks for the article.
Sep 24, 2014 7:32pm
Sep 24, 2014 8:27pm
Interesting article.
Sep 27, 2014 9:30pm
Excellent reading for a Sunday afternoon.
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