Monday 22 December 2014

Can animals predict disasters?

Five tiny songbirds fitted with tracking devices appear to have fled their nests in Tennessee just a day before tornadoes struck in April. The golden-winged warblers had arrived at their nesting site only a few days earlier after a 3,000 mile journey from Colombia.

Scientists believe they flew 400 miles south to escape the storms which killed 35 people, then returned after a few days. They think the warblers may have been alerted by a very deep rumble in the air, inaudible to the human ear.

In 2004, there were stories of animals escaping the Boxing Day tsunami. Witnesses spoke of flamingos deserting low-lying breeding areas, elephants screaming and running to higher ground, and dogs and zoo animals refusing to go outside their shelters.

While more than 200,000 people died, there were relatively few animal casualties. At Patanangala beach in Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park, home to a wide variety of animals, 60 people were washed away, but the only animals lost were two water buffaloes. There is speculation that perhaps animals are able to detect vibrations in the earth that pass us by.

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