Zoo animals listen for tremors in east China

20:03, March 24, 2010      

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Besides her routine work feeding peacocks and cleaning their enclosures, zookeeper Sun Lijuan in Qingdao, a coastal city in east China's Shandong Province, also notes the birds' behavior for the local seismological bureau.

"I observe their behavior twice a day, when I feed them in the morning and clean their pens in the afternoon," said Sun, 26. "If the birds appear abnormally active, I'll report to the local seismological bureau."

Qingdao has 95 such animal observatory stations that "employ" a total of 100,000 animals including fowls, sheep, dogs, horses, snakes and foxes.

"We have involved zoos, farms and breeding centers in earthquake forecasting, because abnormal behavior can be observed in many animals before an imminent earthquake," said Guo Yugui, deputy chief of the Qingdao seismological bureau.

These include the wakening and fleeing of hibernating animals, and springing of fish from water, he said.

Guo and his colleagues need to analyze data provided by these observatories and find out which abnormal animal behavior might signal a quake.

"We'll ignore abnormal behavior observed in their oestrous period, like monkeys jumping and getting agitated in spring," he said.

Animal behavior is just one aspect of quake prediction, said Guo. "These signs should be considered alongside the results of scientific devices."

Quake prediction, especially short-term prediction, remained a universal mystery, he said.

In February 1975, abnormal animal behavior and frequent small-scale quakes helped Chinese authorities anticipate a 7.3-magnitude quake in Haicheng, the northeastern Liaoning Province, 13 hours in advance. A mass evacuation was ordered before the quake, saving an estimated 100,000 lives.

Source: Xinhua
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