Washington, May 16: If eyewitness accounts are to be believed, pandas had sensed the massive earthquake that shook central China on May 12, with the animals behaving strangely just minutes before the quake struck.
According to a report in National Geographic News, several British tourists, who survived the disaster, said that captive pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve, which is near the epicenter, began acting strangely in the minutes before the devastating earthquake. Several tourists told how the animals stopped eating bamboo and became eerily agitated moments before the quake struck."The pandas had been really lazy and just eaten a little bit of bamboo, and all of a sudden they were parading around their pen," said David Etkins. "Looking back, they must have sensed something was wrong," he added. Other tourists reported that when the pandas were pacing up down and walking around, the land started shaking and the animals ran to the edge of the reservation. "It certainly was a surreal experience going through a 7.9 earthquake, surrounded by 25 pandas all sort of reacting to that as well," one of the Americans, Robert Liptak, told the Associated Press.
The 86 captive adult pandas were unharmed by the disaster, and an unknown number of cubs were moved to a safer location in Shawan, a main town in Wolong.
Accounts abound of both domesticated and wild animals behaving oddly before major natural disasters.
"Animals have extraordinary sensory perceptions that exceed those of humans," according to Diana Reiss, a professor at Hunter College in New York who studies animal cognition. "It would be important for animals to use as many cues in the environment as possible to predict an impending disaster," she added.
According to Marc Brody, president of the US - China Environmental Fund (USCEF), "I would think that animals certainly have a stronger sense of perception than humans in terms of their natural environment."
"When I think of a panda and their four broad feet on the ground, one would think they feel tremors before we do," he added.