Chinese scientists are using animals to try to predict when an earthquake may strike, BBC News reported.
Seismologists in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, have set up seven observation centres at zoos and animal parks in the region, it said, citing the Modern Express website.
They’ll be watching for changes in behavior among thousands of animals, which might be a sign of an imminent tremor.
An ecological park in the city’s Yuhuatai district has become one of the seismic monitoring sites, with 2,000 chickens, 200 pigs and 2 square kilometers of fish ponds.
Cameras have been installed around the park, and staff will report back to the seismological bureau on the animals’ behavior twice a day.
“Animals sometimes become stressed before an earthquake,” Zhao Bing, Nanjing Seismological Bureau’s chief of scientific monitoring, was quoted as saying.
But the occasional bit of oddness from one chicken doesn’t necessarily spell trouble, so groups of animals are being observed, “so that their behavior can be cross-checked”, Zhao said.
A member of the staff at Hongshan Forest Zoo, another monitoring site, said animals can be just as effective as specialized technology when trying to predict a quake.
“Birds can become ‘nervous’ – if their tails are wagging like a dog’s, you should pay attention,” Shen Zhijun told the newspaper.
In 2011, scientists said animals may be able to detect chemical changes in groundwater that precede a quake.
Their study was prompted by a colony of toads abandoning their pond in the Italian city of L’Aquila days before it was devastated by a magnitude 6.3 quake.
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