Scientists have uncovered a new threat to humanity emerging in the area surrounding the former Fukushima nuclear power plant: indestructible radioactive hybrid terror pigs.
The details emerged from studies of how radiation from the partial nuclear meltdown at the plant in 2011 had affected local wildlife, which has in many cases "rewilded" urban areas vacated years ago by populations forced to move out by the threat of radiation following the disaster.
This is a familiar process following large-scale human evacuations and similar rewilding situations occurred in the area surrounding the site of the Chernobyl incident in 1986, despite the efforts of the Soviet authorities to control the animal population.
The NBC-suited boffins working on the project were expecting to find wild boar in the affected zone since they have been reported in former urban areas for some years, having come down from the surrounding mountains to reclaim the towns and cities of the area as their own realm almost as soon as the humans vacated them.
However, the scientists were not prepared for the true prospect that awaited them, as related in a report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.
The local wild boar – a subspecies endemic to the region known as the Japanese Boar (aka Sus scrofa leucomystax or the White-Moustached Pig) – having created a fiefdom covering all of the locale vacated by over 160,000 displaced humans, became cocky and aggressive, and also lost their natural wariness.
The marauding boar also began interbreeding with escaped domestic pigs that had made good with their trotters from local farms after their human keepers had been forced to flee. The pigs, for their part, were ill-suited to life in the wild in a radioactive, post-apocalyptic hellscape and presumably threw in their lot with the tough, wily boar as their best chance of survival.
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The result was a new kind of boar-pig hybrid that originated in the initial exclusion zone within 20km of the site of the nuclear plant, where radiation levels were presumably highest. The study found that the hybrids did not display any signs of mutation, despite the doses of radiation they were subjected to. Indeed, surveys of the local boar population found they are contaminated by up to 300 times the safe human dosage of the lethal isotope caesium-137 [PDF]. In other words, they are highly radioactive and seemingly virtually indestructible.
These hybrids now comprise up to 10 per cent of the local population, evidently combining the wild-smarts of their boar ancestors with an enjoyment of the finer things which human civilisation can bring, inherited from their domesticated forebears.
This is presumably why humans attempting to reclaim their former settlements in the area around the Fukushima plant for eventual reopening have found it difficult to dislodge the porcine interlopers from their recently taken strongholds. The Fukushima exclusion zones have been gradually lifted in stages since the incident to allow former residents to return.
In some cases the aggressive porkers have refused to give ground and have attacked returning humans, meaning human authorities have been forced to deploy armed assassination teams of hunters to flush them out.
The future of the Fukushima terror pigs is hard to predict. If they had the intelligence to team up and combine into one unstoppable force, an indestructible boar army of that nature would surely be able to overrun the rest of the Japanese archipelago and, The Reg fears, possibly the whole world.
Unfortunately for the boar, although they naturally live in matriarchal groups called sounders, their natural aggression and territorial nature mean that it would be very much out of character for the Fukushima boar to combine into one huge, terrifying unit, whether for the purposes of destroying human civilisation or any other reason.
The ecology boffins who studied them suggest that while the hybridisation of the two species appears to have had no ill effects on the resulting animals, the pig genes in their make-up will eventually spread and dilute as the hybrid animals move further from their ground-zero birthplace, until eventually "the introgressed genes will eventually disappear in this area."
The superior firepower and coordination of their human usurpers mean the boar will hopefully be forced back into the mountains, where their desire for the trappings of human culture will gradually dissipate and the memory of their time as unquestioned warlord rulers of the region will slowly fade.
Generations of boar to come will look down on human settlements from their mountain redoubts and feel a pang of regret and recognition for their missed opportunity to conquer the world.
The boar war has been avoided, but at what cost to the boar? ®