When the massive tsunami struck a dozen countries on December
26, the giant waves killed more than 200,000 people. On the other, relatively few animals
have been reported dead. In Sri Lanka's largest wildlife reserve, the Yala National Park,
abundant wildlife, including elephants, buffalo and deer, was witnesed after the tsunami
and other than two water buffalos that had died, no other animal carcasses were found near
the park. But 200 people including forty foreigners were killed in Yala. Along India's
Cuddalore coast, where thousands of people perished, cattle, dogs and other domestic
animals survived. In Thailand's Khao Lak National Park, more than 3,000 human beings lost
their lives, but no death of a single animal was reported. However some countries hit by
the Tsunami have reported deaths among domestic animals.
When the Tsunami struck, more
than 200000 people died; but on the other, deaths among wild animals was 'almost
Many reports of odd animal behavior observed
just prior to the tsunami have also made news, indicating that animals may have sensed the
wave coming and fled to higher ground:
Ten minutes before the tsunami crashed into the Point
Calimere wildlife and bird sanctuary in the devastated district of Nagapattinam, a lookout
in a lighthouse reported an extraordinary sight of a herd of around 500 black bucks and
feral horses stampeding from the shoreline toward the safety of a nearby hilltop.
Flamingos that breed this time of year at the sanctuary abandoned their low-lying breeding
areas and flew to higher ground beforehand. The birds, though usually at their most
voluble in the mornings, were eerily silent. Out of 2,000 animals at the wildlife
sanctuary, only one wild boar had been found dead as a result of the tsunami.
In Thailand, tourists at Khao Lak resort in Thailand
were woken up by wails and saw the strange sight of agitated panic stricken elephants,
Poker and Thandung, trumpeting. The agitated elephants broke free from their
chains, ignored the commands of mahouts to stop and ran for higher ground, just five
minutes before the resort was destroyed by the tsunami. The confused people followed and
saved themselves. It was also observed that all the animals went high in the hills and
have not returned. Not one perished in or around the park.
About an hour before the tsunami hit, people at Yala
National Park observed three elephants running away from the Patanangala beach.
In the southern Sri Lankan town of Dickwella, bats
were found frantically flying away just before the tsunami struck.
In Galle, Sri Lanka, two Doberman Pinscher dogs
reportedly refused to go for their daily run on the beach about 90 minutes before the
Also in Sri Lanka, it was reported that monkeys
refused to accept bananas shortly before the tsunami arrived, being totally disinterested,
staring up in a confused mode as if they were reacting to something.
A family dog saved a 7-year-old boy in India, nudging
him up a hill and to safety as the waves came crashing into the boy's small concrete hut.
A village in Thailand was forewarned by its
domesticated birds and the villagers fled before the wave hit; no one in that town died.
In Phuket, a survivor saw dogs running inland minutes
before the tsunami struck
At Malaysia's Taiping Zoo, it was noticed that the
animals suddenly began behaving in a peculiar manner, with some, including hippopotamuses,
running to their shelters and refusing to come out.
A priest from a village in Pondicherry, India,
observed that his usually quiet dogs howled continuously that fateful morning.
Along the coast, many recalled fish repeatedly
jumping out of water before the tsunami.
However, some didn't notice any difference in the
demeanor of their domestic dogs at all, even though the master felt the earthquake. In
Phuket, some street dogs reportedly ran away and dog footprints were seen in second and
third stories of buildings, suggesting that some did get a sense that they have to get up
higher. However hundreds of street-savvy stray dogs were caught unaware by the killer
waves and a lot of them got killed.
The belief that wild and domestic animals possess a
sixth sense to know in advance about natural disatsters has been around for centuries. In
373 B.C., historians recorded that animals, including rats, snakes and weasels, deserted
the Greek city of Helice in droves just days before a quake devastated the place. There
have also been examples where authorities have forecast successfully a major earthquake,
based in part on the observation of the strange antics of animals. In 1975 Chinese
officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng, a city with one million people, just days
before a 7.3-magnitude quake. This was done after locals reported seeing snakes emerging
from hibernation during the winter and freeze to death on the roads.
The animals are better
equipped than humans to sense the changes in their surroundings
Many explanations have been offered for this
abnormal animal behaviour prior to natural disasters:
Wildlife experts believe that the animals have better
hearing and other senses that might enable them to hear or feel the subtle or abrupt
changes in their environment long before humans could feel. Animals' heightened hearing is
very different than in humans. A study conducted in 1984 at the Cornell Bioacoustical Lab
revealed that elephants use infrasound (sound frequencies below human hearing range) in
Earthquakes bring vibrational changes on land and in
water, affect the flow of underground water, the earth's magnetic field, temperature and
sound waves while storms cause electromagnetic changes in the atmosphere that the more
sensitive animals feel before humans. Tsunamis may generate sound waves that travel faster
through rock formations beneath the sea floor than on water surface and animals may have
time to flee after detecting these waves. Research on both acoustic and seismic
communication indicates that elephants can feel the vibrations generated from such a
massive tsunami. Many animals can hear and feel seismic P waves, which humans cannot.
Animals can sense barometric changes in the
atmosphere prior to a storm much sooner than humans, which is why dogs that are afraid of
thunderstorms begin to get anxious prior to the full arrival of the thunder and sometimes
flee to a safe hideout.
Animals, just like humans, have a "fight or
flight" defense mechanism that is triggered when they sense that they are in a
threatening situation. When domestic, livestock and aviary animals sense an earthquake, or
hear alarm calls from other animals at far distances, and they are not cornered or trapped
without ability to escape, they flee to higher ground and safe hiding places.
Birds are better equipped to deal with danger than
their terrestrial counterparts. Since birds fly, it is very important for them to monitor
weather changes very closely to avoid flying in potentially unsafe conditions. Although
the mechanisms of exactly how birds monitor weather and navigate aren't understood very
well, they seem to use all five senses. While birds cannot hear the whole range of
frequencies humans can, their temporal resolution is 10 times greater than ours. Birds
also use sound as a means to communicate when they cannot see each other, so they're
constantly relying on sound as a means of communication. In addition, the ability to fly
also makes escape much easier.
Even though the animals may not be communicating
directly with each other, they may take cues from other animals' behavior. Some experts
believe that the animals worked in concert as the impending tsunami was about to hit the
South Aisian shore: The fish sensed the earthquake and warned the birds, the birds then
warned the land animals. The animals may be forewarned by seeing birds fly away or by
seeing other animals running.
Some scientists believe that strange animal behaviour
or 'mass suicide' is indicative of approaching disaster. On November 29, before the
tsunami, an inexplicable mass beaching of over a 150 whales and dolphins was witnessed in
Tasmania, an island on the southern coast of Australia and in New Zealand. On December 4,
Dr. Arunachalam Kumar from Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, India posted a message on
a natural history server that mass suicides of whales and dolphins that occur sporadically
are in some way related to disturbances in the electromagnetic field and possible
realignments of geotectonic plates thereof.
On Dec.4, 2004, Dr.
Kumar from Mangalore, India warned of an impending earthquake after noticing mass
breaching of whales and dolphins!
He remarked that tracking the dates and plotting the locales of tremors and
earthquakes, it has been found that major earthquakes usually follow within a week or two
of mass beaching of cetaceans. He also wrote that he will not be surprised if within a few
days a massive quake hits some part of the globe. Dr. Kumar explained that whales and
dolphins migrate thousands of miles along the geomagnetic wave, using it to align
themselves. If they're beaching, it means their direction-finding capacity has gone wrong,
perhaps due to seismic activity. His words proved prophetic.
But all don't agree. Geologists dismiss these kinds
of reports, saying it's "the psychological focusing effect," where people
remember strange behaviors only after an earthquake or other catastrophe has taken place
and would not have remembered anything if nothing had happened. The United States
Geological Survey says a reproducible connection between a specific behavior and the
occurrence of a quake has never been made.
Any deviation from normal behaviour in both wild and
domestic animals, like vacating areas of their dwelling, gathering in strange groupings,
and entering into human habitats that they normally avoid, unusual cries or noises should
alert us. Alan Rabinowitz, director for science and exploration at the Bronx Zoo-based
Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, says that at one time humans also had this
sixth sense, but lost the ability when it was no longer needed or used. (See Did Animals Sense Tsunami Was Coming?) While more research is
certianly needed to confirm this, researchers in Japan, one of the world's most
earthquake-prone countries hope that animals may be used as a prediction tool for natural
disasters. While governments are rushing to install hi-tech early warning devices,
these natural warning-systems that are already in place may be useful if studied properly.
Wild animals survive by being always alert and we should take clues from them!
Back2Cradle By: B.S. Kakkilaya
- Animal instincts can save
- Animals survive the Asian tsunami disaster
- Animals Survive the Tsunami
- Animals survive tsunami, puzzle
- Animals Used Keen Senses To Survive Tsunami
- Did Animals Sense Tsunami Was Coming?
- Did animals' 'sixth sense' save them
- Did the animals know of the tsunami before the waves hit?
- Mass Reports of Wild Animals Sensing Tsunami
- Senses helped animals survive the tsunami
- Tsunami Kills Few Animals in Sri Lanka