Author: Norman Miller

The animals that detect disasters

Source(s): British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Goats
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"Survivors also reported seeing animals, such as cows, goats, cats and birds, deliberately moving inland shortly after the earthquake and before the tsunami came," says Irina Rafliana, previously part of an advisory group for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk (UNISDR) and now a researcher at the German Development Institute in Bonn. "Many of those who survived ran along with these animals or immediately after."

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One of the most important investigations into how animals could predict disasters was carried out five years ago by a team led by 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.

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The researchers found evidence that the farm animals began to change their behaviour 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.

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Another study carried out by Wikelski monitoring the movements of tagged goats on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily also found the animals seemed to have an advance sense of when Etna was going to burst into life.

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