Entries in Earthquakes (1)


Can Animals Sense Earthquakes First?

JupiterImages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Do you want an early earthquake detection system? You might be best off adopting an ape, lemur, or flamingo for a pet.

It seems some animals at the National Zoo sensed that the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the East Coast on Tuesday was coming.

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., said the vibrations from the earthquake were “keenly felt” by the animals, staff and visitors.  But more interesting is how some of those animals reacted before the earth started shaking below them, showing a sense that these zoo animals knew something we didn’t.

The National Zoo has catalogued changes in animal behavior recognized before, during and after the big East Coast quake.

The Great Apes knew it was coming apparently -- about five to ten seconds before the earthquake hit, many of the apes, such as Kyle, an orangutan, and Kojo, a western lowland gorilla, left their food during afternoon feeding time and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in their exhibit.  Another ape, a gorilla named Mandara, let out what an animal care taker described as a “shriek” and instinctively collected her baby and joined the other apes at the top of the tree structure as well. An orangutan, Iris, started “belch vocalizing” before and after the quake hit which the zoo keepers describe as a sound only used for “extreme irritation.”

Other animals serving as an early warning system? Small mammals. The red ruffed lemurs called out a whole fifteen minutes before the quake.  Zookeepers reported that the black and rufous giant elephant shrew hid in his habitat and “refused to come out for afternoon feeding,” before the quake hit.

The flamingos too sensed the start of the quake. Just before the quake, the zoo’s flock of 64 flamingos rushed and grouped themselves together where they remained huddled during the quake, the zoo says.

Many animals reacted to the shakes of the earthquake -- but did not start acting up beforehand, indicating they likely did not sense the earthquake coming.

Other zoos on the East Coast report similar animal activity both before and after the quake.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio