Dog senses Northern California earthquake

Did animals sense 2004 tsunami?

  • Posted: 2:42 AM
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  • Author: Brian

National Geographic takes a closer looks at the numerous reports of strange behavior by animals in Indonesia just before the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. More than 150,000 people were killed, yet relatively few animals died. How could they have known? Was it one of their primary senses perhaps they could feel, hear or even smell something humans cannot? Or, as some believe, do they have a sixth sense?




The belief that wild and domestic animals possess a sixth sense — and know in advance when the earth is going to shake — has been around for centuries.

Wildlife experts believe animals' more acute hearing and other senses might enable them to hear or feel the Earth's vibration, tipping them off to approaching disaster long before humans realize what's going on.

The massive tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 9 temblor off the coast of northern Sumatra island on December 26. The giant waves rolled through the Indian Ocean, killing more than 150,000 people in a dozen countries.

Relatively few animals have been reported dead, however, reviving speculation that animals somehow sense impending disaster.

Ravi Corea, president of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society, which is based in Nutley, New Jersey, was in Sri Lanka when the massive waves struck.

Afterward, he traveled to the Patanangala beach inside Yala National Park, where some 60 visitors were washed away.

The beach was one of the worst hit areas of the 500-square-mile (1,300-square-kilometer) wildlife reserve, which is home to a variety of animals, including elephants, leopards, and 130 species of birds.

Corea did not see any animal carcasses nor did the park personnel know of any, other than two water buffalos that had died, he said.

Along India's Cuddalore coast, where thousands of people perished, the Indo-Asian News service reported that buffaloes, goats, and dogs were found unharmed.

Flamingos that breed this time of year at the Point Calimere wildlife sanctuary in India flew to higher ground beforehand, the news service reported.

Strange Animal Behavior

Accounts of strange animal behavior have also started to surface.

About an hour before the tsunami hit, Corea said, people at Yala National Park observed three elephants running away from the Patanangala beach.

World Wildlife Fund, an organization that leads international efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats, has satellite collars on some of the elephants in the park.

A spokeswoman said they plan to track the elephants on that fateful day to verify whether they did move to higher ground. She doesn't know, though, when the satellite data will be downloaded and analyzed.

Corea, a Sri Lankan who emigrated to the United States 20 years ago, said two of his friends noticed unusual animal behavior before the tsunami.

One friend, in the southern Sri Lankan town of Dickwella, recalls bats frantically flying away just before the tsunami struck. Another friend, who lives on the coast near Galle, said his two dogs would not go for their daily run on the beach.

"They are usually excited to go on this outing," Corea said. But on this day they refused to go and most probably saved his life.

Alan Rabinowitz, director for science and exploration at the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, says animals can sense impending danger by detecting subtle or abrupt shifts in the environment.

"Earthquakes bring vibrational changes on land and in water while storms cause electromagnetic changes in the atmosphere," he said. "Some animals have acute sense of hearing and smell that allow them to determine something coming towards them long before humans might know that something is there."

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For the complete report, visit NationalGeographic.com.

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