An Age-old Debate: Can Animals Predict Natural Disasters?

Can Animals Predict Natural Disasters?
Stories alluding to predictive animal behavior go back as far as 373 B.C., in Greece. Humans have been mulling over the connection between animal behavior pattern and natural disasters ever since. Does it hold true? Let's find out.
What comes to your mind when someone mentions 'animal instinct'? Is it a greater sensory perception? A premonition? Sixth sense, perhaps? There is no doubt that animals need these cutting-edge senses for surviving in the wild. The question is, does this animal instinct come in handy enough to shelter them from an impending natural disaster? Scientists researching animal behavior are trying to establish a line of logic between jittery animals and the natural disasters that seem to follow it. Let us delve deeper to unlock this mystery.
Do Animals Predict Natural Disasters?
For animals living in the wild, the meaning of life equals survival. This explains the presence of a keener sense of hearing and smell in these creatures, especially when compared to humans. They possess an advanced perceptive sense that aids their survival in the jungles. It makes them tune in to minute vibrations that are imperceptible to us, what with survival not topping our list of priorities. It is well documented how migratory species also make use of electromagnetic fields to navigate. Similarly, members of the animal kingdom have always been deft at understanding climatic changes and adapting accordingly. Animals have been known to show some noticeable changes in behavior that have signaled the possibility of a tragedy. Animals in zoos attempt to escape confinement, horses and cattle mostly huddle in open spaces, insects are seen moving indoors to safety; the animal kingdom seems united by this unique trait that they apparently possess. Here are some examples that substantiate this theory.
  • Increasingly voluminous croaking of frogs is an indication of a storm brewing in the vicinity.
  • Expect heavy rains if you notice butterflies and bees do a sudden vanishing act. They are probably on the hunt for a dry spot.
  • Sharks swim towards the safety of the deep seas when hurricanes threaten to strike.
  • Migratory birds are known to delay departures at the onset of hurricanes.
  • Prior to volcanic eruptions, there is a palpable restlessness among animals that inhabit the surroundings.
  • Cats and dogs have been observed to flee their homes during the days leading up to an earthquake, with a sudden rise in lost pets adverts often preceding a disaster.
Do Animals Foresee Earthquakes?
Tales of animals sensing the occurrence of earthquakes are often shared. The tragic tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in December 2004 was triggered by one of the worst earthquakes ever. This tragedy threw up a lot of stories of animals scurrying to find shelter just ahead of the giant waves approaching. The aftermath of this catastrophe saw unprecedented damage to human life. Surprisingly, the animals had managed to shelter themselves from the wrath of nature to a great degree. There were various sightings of animals like elephants and felines moving inland, exhibiting an unusual behavioral pattern.
We regularly hear people vehemently describing the peculiar yowls and howls of their beloved furry friends, prior to an earthquake. Domestic pets have also been seen going through unexplained periods of gloom and restlessness, days before the earthquake actually occurs.
Seismologists in China and Japan (countries victim to some gruesome natural disasters), are putting in efforts to discover the reasoning behind uncommon animal behavior prior to earthquakes. They are hopeful of making an advancement in establishing this theory as animals are able to detect changes in the Earth's vibrations.
Behold the Truth
Ever noticed how these stories of "fleeing animals" surface right after a tragedy has struck? Noticeable peculiarity in animal behavior cannot always be indicative of an impending natural disaster. Here's why.
  • Animals are known to change their behavior for unexplained reasons. Bizarre actions could also indicate something as simple as mating calls.
  • It is extremely difficult to study animals in a controlled environment as their reactions to several moods are similar. Humans cannot discern between yelps that mean "I'm hungry" and "Earthquake alert! Run!"
  • Geologists state the "psychological focusing effort" to classify this as a myth. It is only in hindsight that humans notice the changes in animal behavior. These peculiarities are never glossed over if a natural disaster doesn't occur.
For our jungle friends, this 'wonder sense' that they possess is a matter of life and death, something that is integral to their survival in the wild. Humans, being humans, are able to smell an opportunity that would help them in predicting natural disasters. What we imagine to be clairvoyance could be a mundane action on the part of the animal. Their heightened sense of perception may not be conclusive, but it can't be completely dismissed as well. So, the next time little 'Tommy' has an alarming ring to his bark, decide if you wish to take flight or refill his food bowl.