Can Animals Foresee Natural Disasters?

Earthquakes, like the one that struck today in Chile--which, at the time of this writing, is believed to have claimed 147 lives--are all the more devastating for their unpredictable nature. While geologists have resources available to indicate a probability of when a quake will strike, such as measuring seismic pressures or observing changes in magnetic fields, it is still impossible to provide any short-term notice to threatened communities--a notice that would undoubtedly save countless lives. Although geologists may be incapable of putting communities on alert, however, recent disasters are strengthening theories that some animals may be able to 'sense' impending earthquakes.WATCH VIDEO: Top 5 Amazing Stories of Animals Saving Humans

Seismologists in Guangxi Province, China, believe that snakes may be the most sensitive to subtle vibrations which precede a quake--predicting the disaster about 120 hours prior to the major event. The snakes are monitored 24 hours a day to observe any erratic behavior. According to the researchers, before an earthquake the snakes have been seen acting unusually, repeatedly throwing themselves against the walls of their enclosures.

Animals Acting Strangely Before Earthquakes
According to a report in Ambiente Brasil, observations indicating that animals may foresee disaster are not entirely uncommon, nor is the notion a modern one. A strange occurrence was noted by famed philosopher Immanuel Kant, in 1755, when he witnessed a multitude of earthworms emerging from the ground in south-east Spain. Eight days later, a devastating earthquake struck in Portugal.

In 1966, the city of Parkfield, California, was inexplicably overrun with rattlesnakes, fleeing the surrounding hills in droves. Two days later, an earthquake shook the area.

When officials from Haicheng, China, observed wildlife and livestock acting strangely in 1975, they decided to evacuate the city's 90 thousand residents. Only 10 percent of the city remained standing after the earthquake that occurred a short while later.

In February 2001, a large number of cats are reported to have gone missing in western Washington, twelve hours before a quake shook Seattle.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean in December 2004 resulted in the deaths of nearly 285,000 people. Many tourists, who had been visiting an ecological reserve in Sri Lanka were killed by the tidal wave that swept miles inland. Survivors recalled that prior to the disaster, animals at the reserve were observed acting strangely, scrambling for high places. No animals were killed when the tidal wave arrived.

A video was discovered after a recent earthquake in northern California documenting the strange behavior of a dog moments before the shaking began. The dog, who was laying on the floor of an office, rose and quickly fled the room. Seconds later, the earthquake strikes.

Can Animals' Mysterious 'Sense' Save Lives?
As Chile begins to recover from the devastating 8.8 earthquake that struck this morning, it would not be surprising to learn of similar reports of animals seeming to foresee the disaster. With two major earthquakes in as many months, resulting in an unknown number of casualties, understanding how animals may forewarn such events may be as important as ever.

WATCH VIDEO: Top 5 Amazing Stories of Animals Saving Humans
With reporting from Ambiente Brasil.
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Natural Disasters: The Effects of Climate Change

Tags: Animals | Chile | Natural Disasters | Pets

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