- Research being carried out in China has indicated that
recognition of unusual animal behavior in a systematic way can lead and
be used, in conjunction with other methods, as a means of predicting large
and potentially destructive earthquakes. The following are examples of
observed unusual animal behavior before major earthquakes occurred.
- Unusual Animal Behavior
- In 1920, the largest earthquake to hit China with a magnitude
of 8.5 occurred in Haiyuan County, Ninghsia Province. According to reports
of eyewitnesses, prior to this earthquake, wolves were seen running around
in packs, dogs were barking unusually, and sparrows were flying around
wildly. It is reported that prior to the 6.8 magnitude earthquake in 1966
in Hsingtai County, Hopei Province, in Northern China, all the dogs at
a village near the epicenter had deserted their kennels and thus survived
- Prior to the earthquake of July 18, 1969, (magnitude
7.4) in the Pohai Sea, unusual behavior was observed in seagulls, sharks,
and five different species of fish. Based on observations of unusual behavior
of giant pandas, deer, yaks, loaches, tigers and other animals, a warning
was issued at the Tientsin People's Park Zoo, two hours before the earthquake
- The Chinese began to study systematically the unusual
animal behavior, and the Haicheng earthquake of February 1975 was predicted
successfully as early as in mid-December of 1974. The most unusual circumstance
of animal behavior was that of snakes that came out of hibernation and
froze on the surface of the earth. Also a group of rats appeared. These
events were succeeded by a swarm of earthquakes at the end of December
1974. During the following month, in January 1975, thousands of reports
of unusual animal behavior were received from the general area. Local people
saw hibernating snakes coming out from their holes and into the snow. In
the first three days in February the activity intensified even more and
unusual behavior of the larger animals such as cows, horses, dogs and pigs
was reported. On February 4, 1975, an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck
the Haicheng County, Liaoning Province.
- More instances of unusual animal behavior were reported.
A stock breeder in northern China, feeding his animals before dawn on July
28, 1976, in the area of the Kaokechuang People's Commune, approximately
40 kilometers away from the city of Tangshan, reported that his horses
and mules instead of eating were jumping and kicking until they finally
broke loose and ran outside. A few seconds later, a dazzling white flash
illuminated the sky. Tremendous rumbling noises were heard as a 7.8 magnitude
earthquake struck the Tangshan area.
- Other reports of unusual animal behavior prior to the
occurrence of earthquakes have been reported in the literature and in books.
Such unusual animal behavior included goats refusing to go into pens; cats
and dogs picking up their offspring and carrying them outdoors; pigs squealing
strangely; chickens dashing out of the coops in the middle of the night;
fish dashing about aimlessly; and birds leaving their nests. It has also
been reported that zoo animals refused to go back into their shelters at
night; snakes, lizards and other small mammals evacuated their underground
nests; insects congregated in huge swarms near the seashores; cattle sought
higher ground; domestic animals became agitated; and wild birds left their
- Surveys done in China show that the largest number of
cases of unusual animal behavior precede the earthquake, particularly in
the 24 hours before it strikes. In other parts of China where major earthquakes
have been preceded by foreshocks, unusual behavior in rats, fish, and snakes
were observed as early as three days prior to the earthquake, but continuing
to several hours, or even a few minutes before.
- Studies of Animal Behavior
- Throughout China's long history, unusual behavior has
been observed in every kind of common animal. Most of the behavior falls
into the category of unusual restlessness and disorientation.
- Since animals have the capability of acting as predictors
of earthquakes, the Chinese scientists have carried out surveys of animal
behavior variations prior to earthquakes. A team of scientists including
biologists, geophysicists, chemists, meteorologists, and biophysicists
conducted a survey in the Tangshan area and in 400 communes in 48 counties
around it after the 1976 earthquake. The scientists visited a number of
places that were hit by other destructive earthquakes and, through interviews
and discussions with local people, collected information on over 2,000
cases of unusual animal behavior occurring prior to an earthquake. The
majority of the reports involved domestic animals. Based on this survey
a preliminary report was prepared by the Chinese identifying 58 kinds of
domestic and wild animals that had demonstrated unusual behavior.
- The principal focus of research work in China has been
on the behavior of pigeons. Biological studies on pigeons determined that
a hundred tiny units exist between the tibia and fibula on a pigeon's leg.
These nerve units are connected to the nerve center, and are very sensitive
to vibrations. Scientists determined that prior to an earthquake of magnitude
4.0, which occurred in the area of the study, fifty pigeons that had severed
connections between the tibia, fibula, and the nerve centers, remained
calm before the earthquake, while those with normal connections became
startled and flew away.
- Because of the success in monitoring unusual animal behavior
for the prediction of certain earthquakes, the Chinese, who have pioneered
this work, have looked into ways to construct instruments that would duplicate
the sensory organs of animals which were able to monitor, and sense, stimuli
preceding an earthquake. Researchers found it very difficult to understand
the mechanism of response stimuli. Physical or chemical stimuli come out
of the earth prior to an earthquake and these must be the stimuli that
animals can sense. For example, dogs may be able to hear the microfacturing
of rocks a few milliseconds before a quake shock reaches the surface. Electromagnetic
changes in the earth prior to an earthquake may be sensed by such animals
as sharks and catfish which have low or high frequency receptors and sense
such changes actively or passively. Also such electromagnetic field changes
could be affecting migrating birds and the navigational ability of fish.
- Mechanisms of Animal Responses
- What is the sensory mechanism of animals that controls
their responses to changes related to an impending earthquake? As mentioned
earlier, the behavior of an animal might be subject to changes in the magnetic
field preceding a major earthquake and such changes may be sensed by energy
transfer at the electron level which, in turn, cause changes in the cellular
behavior, or response. The living cell is essentially an electrical device
and a micromolecular structure, and the sensory organs are all interconnected.
Electromechanic changes occurring prior to the occurrence of a large earthquake
may be sensed by certain animals and filtered, then instinctively interpreted.
Thus animals may have the means and sensitivity to sort out and discriminate
the threatening precursory signals of an impending earthquake, thus activating
a behavior pattern for survival.
- These precursory electromagnetic or electromechanic changes
which precede an earthquake, although mixed with background noise, must
be filtered by animals and coordinated through their sensory response to
the total environment. Thus, behavior is determined by the sensitivity
of the different component parts of the living system to the surrounding
medium. Experiments with new instruments and electronic solid state sensors
are being used now to determine animal response to impending catastrophic
- The benefit from such research would be in duplicating
the sensory responses of animals to construct equally responsive instruments
that can record or monitor these precursory changes. Thus, observing and
studying animal behavior could lead to better earthquake prediction instrumentation.
- Operational Network
- Since China considers such information on animal behavior
vital to prediction, it established in 1968 its first experimental station
for earthquake predictions making use of biological observations. This
experimental station was established in Hsingtai Province. Other similar
stations were set up in 1971 in Aksu, Sinkiang Province, where earthquakes
were expected to occur. Since 1971, the Chinese have established an operational
network in different communes or counties. Whenever unusual events occur
and are reported by numerous observers, these are evaluated as a way of
predicting earthquakes. So far, by this means, two major earthquakes have
been predicted. This is easy for the Chinese since 80 percent of the population
live in farming areas that are in close association with animals which
can be observed readily. It is a little more difficult for people living
in urban areas to observe similar animal behavior.
- Tsunami Page of Dr. George P.C.