According to scientists, wild animals monitored with game cameras may be the earliest and most reliable warnings of oncoming earthquakes.
Researchers say that wild animals can often predict earthquakes weeks before they strike, while humans are unable to see the natural disaster coming themselves. But by monitoring motion-activated cameras in wildlife areas, people can monitor their behavior, allowing residents to evacuate areas or prepare for a quake with time to spare.
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The proposal for a wildlife-provided warning system comes following a 2011 study in the Peruvian Amazon, when scientists noticed animals seemingly abandoned an area as early as three weeks before a 7.0 magnitude quake struck. In the 23 days before the disaster, researchers noticed fewer animal sightings recorded. In the five days preceding the quake, no animals at all were seen, which is highly unusual for the thriving ecosystem. Scientists have long believed that animals have advance knowledge of earthquakes, but the study is the first to document animals actually fleeing in advance.
Researchers believe a system of game cameras could be invaluable to developing earthquake-prone countries, since it would be easy and affordable to implement. Rachel Grant, lead author of the report and lecturer in Animal and Environmental Biology said it could be used alongside other monitoring systems and would only require someone to monitor the cameras.
Scientists believe that prior to the quake, tremendous stresses in the earth’s surface can cause changes in the atmosphere. This can in turn cause increased serotonin levels in the bloodstream, causing animals and humans to feel restless and agitated.
Animals seems to excel over humans at picking up on these subtle changes and responding accordingly. But by learning to observe wildlife, researchers believe that people can follow animal behavior and, in turn, see a disaster coming before it’s too late.