Animals have an uncanny way of sensing when major natural calamities are about to happen including earthquakes. In one instance this phenomenon was caught in a camera when animal appearance dropped to record low in rain-forest habitat at Yanachaga National Park in Peru. This happened in the year 2011 preceding a major earthquake that hit the country. The rain-forest is always swarming with different species of animals but not for more than three weeks before the earthquake hit.
Lead scientist Dr Rachel Grant, from Anglia Ruskin University, analyzed camera trap data for evidence of changed animal movements before earthquakes, said: “The Park was 320 kilometers from the epicenter, and I thought, there was not much going to be happening. But when I saw the results I was totally shocked. It was amazing. The analysis showed that just before the earthquake animal activity dropped right down.”
Evidences also included a highly ionized air pervading the mountain area that usually happens when rocks are subjected in a highly stressful condition.
Scientists believe that rodents or those animals living close to the ground can sense the heavily ionized air which cause them to escape from the area.
The animals are believed to withdraw to lower grounds and avoid the high altitude areas.
Positive ions are considered bad compared to the negative ions which are considered good. Positive ions bring about irritability, over activity and disorientation among humans.
The researchers also claim that their findings will help experts develop short term projections. On a regular day, the motion camera managed to take pictures of not more than five to 15 animals at a time. However prior to 23 days before the earthquake animal presence dropped to five or less and none can be seen with five to seven days left before the actual earthquake arrived. They have flown the coop.
Camera record showed that animal activity were normal on other times when the ground seismic activity was low.
There are several other unscientific reports of animal activity which seem to connect them to earthquakes, but none have been considered as dependable.
The latest research which was published in the journal Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, didn’t take into account any human accounts that may taint the results. Humans may have the ability to detect positive ions but we don’t share the animal’s ability to detect earthquakes.
“Unfortunately we humans have lost a lot of our ability to sense things,” she said. “We’ve created our own environment, cocooned in our houses, so we don’t have to. Also humans are very generalist in what they respond to.
“The animals most sensitive to positive ions are those that live in close proximity to the ground. They are much more likely to feel something. Those we found to be most affected were small rodents – they had totally gone eight days before the earthquake.”
She continued: “I don’t think animals have evolved an ability to predict earthquakes. What’s more plausible is that animals in general will tend to move away from unpleasant stimuli. It’s a simple avoidance from a chemical they don’t like.”
Co-author Professor Friedemann Freund, from the Seti Institute at the American space agency NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, said: “The camera traps were located on a ridge at an altitude of 900 meters. If air ionization occurred, it is likely that it was particularly strong along such a ridge. Hence, the animals would have escaped to the valley below, where they were exposed to fewer positive airborne ions.
“With their acute ability to sense their environment, animals can help us understand subtle changes that occur before major earthquakes. These changes, that we are now able to measure, express themselves in many different ways at the earth’s surface and above.”