Apes go ape before Washington quake

Posted by Kate Taylor

Animals at the Washington National Zoo started behaving oddly minutes before Tuesday's magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit.

First to respond to some hidden signal, says the zoo, were the red-ruffed lemurs, which sounded an alarm call about 15 minutes before the quake and then again just after it occurred.

About five to ten seconds before the quake, many of the apes, including Kyle, an orangutan, and Kojo, a western lowland gorilla, abandoned their food and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in the exhibit. 

About three seconds before the quake, a gorilla called Mandara let out a shriek, collected her baby, Kibibi, and did the same.

Another orangutan began 'belch vocalizing', making a noise normally reserved for extreme irritation, before the quake and carried on afterwards. Snakes writhed, flamingos huddled, and creatures from a shrew to a Komodo dragon hid.

However plenty of animals faled to react at all, including the Przewalski’s horses, the scimitar-horned oryx and the giant pandas.

Many animals appear to be able to sense disasters coming. Last year, a toad researcher - yes, they do exist, reported that her subjects scarpered a full five days before a major earthquake struck 74 miles away in L'Aquila.

It's been suggested that the animals may be responding to the release of radon gas, triggered by changes in the ionosphere.