14 September 2009

Nonhumans know when trouble is on the way

As I turn the corner towards my house over 300 yards away,  my dogs start barking and cluster at the gate.  Apparently this is not at all uncommon  – hundreds of people say that their dogs behave almost as if they know when their owner is setting off for home and wait by the door even when the person is still miles away.
Everyone who works and lives with animals has their own sixth sense stories.  Cats sense when they are to be taken to the vet.  Birds seem to forewarn the deaths of those around them. Instances of animals who howl several days before a death are too frequent to be a coincidence. There is the hospital cat who would snuggle up with patients destined to die that day. So many  pets who have found their way home from miles away in spite of never having been outside their own houses.

The devastating 2004 Tsunami renewed interest in the possibility  of a sixth sense in animals. One of the affected areas was Sri Lanka’s Yala animal reserve.  While tourists died here, virtually no animal carcasses were found. In fact, animals were reported to have started moving away  long before the tidal wave struck. In Indonesia, herds of  elephants were seen moving to higher ground. Flamingoes at Point Calimere wildlife sanctuary abandoned their low lying nests for higher trees.

Animals’ ability to foretell natural disasters is legendary. In 373 B.C., historians recorded how the city’s rats, snakes and weasels, deserted Helice in Greece  just days before a quake devastated it.  Similar animal anticipation of earthquakes has been repeated over centuries. In September 2003 a Japanese  doctor made headlines with a study indicating how erratic behavior in dogs could be used to forecast quakes. Countless pet owners recount their cats and dogs acting strangely before the ground shook—barking or whining for no apparent reason, or showing signs of nervous restlessness. Catfish moving violently, chickens that stop laying eggs and bees swarming out of their hives, any unusual animal activity is reason enough to suspect something big and humans should take a cue from these warnings.  In 1975, noticing erratic animal behaviour, Chinese officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng, a city with one million people, just days before a 7.3 magnitude quake. If not evacuated, fatalities could have exceeded 150,000. Similarly, dogs inexplicably howling through the night, caged birds displaying restlessness,  and cats going into hiding,  have been noted before major tremors including the 1994 California quake , and the Greek and Turkish quakes of 1999.…
…continues: Animals Have More Sense by Maneka Gandhi

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