Rabbit with no ears born near Japan nuclear plant
Published 14/06/2011 | 17:24
A rabbit born with no ears and red eyes born near the near Fukushima nuclear plant is said to be the result of nuclear contamination.
According to its owner, Yuko Sugimoto, the rabbit was born on May 7 in the town of Namie, which is just outside the 18-mile exclusion zone that has been imposed around the plant.
But the town has been identified as a radiation hot-spot.
"I have been raising rabbits for more than 10 years and this is the first time something like this has happened," Ms Sugimoto told the weekly magazine Flash.
As well as having no ears, the rabbit also appears to have clear signs of albinism - a pure white coat and red eyes - that are the result of mutations in several genes.
Some experts have dismissed a link between the deformed rabbit and the radiation released after the March 11 tsunami wrecked the nuclear plant, with some pointing out that animals are occasionally born with deformities.
In addition, some mother rabbits have been known to chew off the ears of their young through over-enthusiastic grooming.
But news of the birth has inevitably caused concern in Japan and coincides with the announcement by Tokyo Electric Power that levels of radioactive strontium around 240 times the legal limit have been detected in samples of sea water taken close to the plant, 150 miles north of Tokyo.
Strontium, which accumulates in bones and has been linked to bone cancer and leukemia, has also been found in groundwater near two of the damaged reactors. Previously, Tepco confirmed that traces of plutonium and radioactive iodine had been released into the atmosphere from the plant.