Animals to be used as quake sensors
By Jonathan Yeung
Updated: 2007-05-22 06:53

The natural behaviour of animals is being used to help predict earthquakes in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province.

Guangzhou zoo, which has more than 5,000 animals, recently set up observation points near the dwelling places of birds, peacocks, frogs, snakes, turtles, deer, and squirrels to monitor and record their daily behavior for the city's seismology office.

"We have found many animals behave oddly before an earthquake," said experts with the seismology office of the Guangzhou government.

"Hibernating animals for example will wake up and flee from their caves, while the aquatic ones will leap from the water's surface.

"We hope that by monitoring this behavior we can better forecast impending earthquakes and help save lives," the experts said.

According to the seismology office, abnormal behavior can be observed among 130 animals before an impending earthquake.

Chen Honghan, vice-director of the Guangzhou Zoo, said: "Mice and snakes for instance normally do not leave their hiding places during day time, but you will see them scurrying about when an earthquake is about to strike. They seem to sense disaster.

"Other animals such as giraffes and hippos are also very sensitive to natural disasters."

Chen said giraffes will run away from trees for fear of being crushed, while hippos will head for land, and in the case of a tsunami, they will keep diving into deep water to protect themselves from the huge waves.

"The 'sixth sense' of some animals are sharper than humans," said Liu Xiaoming, director of the primate animal research and development center of south China's endangered animal institute.

Guangdong Province is prone to earthquakes.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that a big earthquake will occur in Guangdong," said Liang Gan, vice-director of the Guangdong seismology bureau.

"To the province's south lies a Southeast Asian seismic fault that has caused earthquakes of level 7 and above near the Taiwan Strait and cites such as Yangjiang and Heyuan.

"We will further step up efforts in the monitoring of earthquakes, but more should also be done to let people know how to protect themselves when an earthquake strikes," Liang said.

(China Daily 05/22/2007 page4)