A hybrid species of domestic pigs and wild boar have been causing havoc around Fukushima, which Japanese scientists have discovered by surprise while investigating the effects of radiation on animals.

A genetic study found that wild boar cross-bred with domestic pigs that escaped from local farms in areas deserted by humans after a tsunami and an earthquake triggered the 2011 crisis at Fukushima nuclear power plant and displaced more than 160,000 people.

Hunters have been tracking down radioactive boar for years, whos population has now grown into the hundreds, and have registered levels of the radioactive element caesium-137 300 times higher than is safe.

Scientists at Fukushima University have tracked the impact of radiation on wildlife through genetic testing.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that there have been no genetic mutations, but instead made the unexpected discovery that domestic pigs had been mating with wild boars in the Fukushima nuclear zone.

The “biological invasion” started after farmers were forced to flee the area and wild boar from surrounding mountains gradually moved into the depopulated towns, meeting then interbreeding with domestic pigs.

The exclusion zone was lifted in 2018, but Japanese officials have struggled to reclaim some areas from the hybrid animals, which have become unafraid of humans.

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