Their senses are sharper than technology, according to some scientists

Animal Behavior Predicts Earthquakes

Devastating earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria in the first quarter of 2023, have stirred and spurred scientists to hunt for pre-emptive measures. Firstly, they are looking for early warning signals, and secondly, ways of minimizing the impact when such natural disasters occur. Animals have been identified as one of the unusual sources of fore-notice to disasters.

A warning signal to simmering disasters through actions by animals is that they suddenly ran to higher ground when they sense vibrations that precede the occurrence of natural disasters, be they tsunamis or earthquakes.  Animals are better equipped to sense tiny foreshocks traveling through the Earth seconds before more powerful earthquake waves barrel through, scientists say.

Keen observation of animal behavior revealed that animals had panicked and cried out in unison, while horses have run off in panic just prior to some earthquakes. It is reported that strange animal behavior preceded the powerful 7.8 magnitude quake in Turkiye. Birds flew in a haphazard manner, and dogs howled loudly.

One of the most important investigations into how animals could predict disasters was carried out by a team led by Prof. Martin Wikelski from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany. The study involved recording the movement patterns of different animals (cows, sheep, and dogs) – a process known as biologging – on a farm in the earthquake-prone region of the Marches in central Italy. Collars with chips were attached to each animal, which sent movement data to a central computer every few minutes between October 2016 and April 2017.

Prof. Dr. Martin Wikelski
Director of the Department of Migration, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Germany.


In Wikelski’s study, animals may have been able to detect earthquakes in advance up to 12 miles from their epicenter. He intends to do more research, potentially into whether the farm animals were reacting to iron levels released in the air by underground pressure.

During this period, official statistics recorded over 18,000 quakes in the region, from tiny tremors measuring just 0.4 magnitudes up to a dozen quakes notching 4 or above.

The researchers found evidence that the farm animals began to change their behavior up to 20 hours before an earthquake. Whenever the monitored farm animals were collectively 50% more active for more than 45 minutes at a stretch, the researchers predicted an earthquake with a magnitude above 4.0. Seven out of eight strong earthquakes were correctly predicted in this way.

Early warning systems do not exist in many areas struck regularly by natural disasters. In 2017, the World Meteorological Organisation found that the governments of around 100 countries still lack early warning systems for natural disasters to which they were prone. Scientists have not found any signals that seem to occur consistently before big quakes. Hence, the growing willingness of some scientists to consider more unorthodox warning signals – such as animal behavior.

This alert must warn the public not to take happenings in the environment lightly. Every action or inaction by elements in the environment ought to put people on guard, against all things, including catastrophes.




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