Havana: Using ancient animal instincts, science may find ways to save human lives and protect material resources against disasters that happen unexpectedly like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides.
In spite of the short time between these events and animal alert, it is essential to pay attention to disturbances of wildlife behaviour.
Since man began domesticating species, changes in them before the advent of cataclysms were noticed, because their keen senses allow them to distinguish infra-sound and vibrations distant from human perception.
For Sebastian Celis, veterinary specialist on exotic animals at SOS Veterinary Hospital of the Buin Zoo in Chile, those who suffer most are pets, aware that they must escape, but not really knowing where.
For years, countries like China and Japan have studied psycho-physiological alterations caused by physical and chemical stimuli emanating from the earth, which activate in animal behaviour patterns of survival to seismic hazards.
Scenes of frantic barking of dogs, erratic flight of sparrows, mass migration of other birds, horses stampeding, snakes stopping their hibernation periods and cattle refusing to enter in their corrals have been repeated very often before earthquakes.
So far science can detect signs of risk as seismic pressures, soil slopes or changes in magnetic fields, but these techniques do not allow to accurately predict earthquakes.
For centuries, these alerts have been described. Many of them can be mentioned only in the last decade, which has seen multiplied regularity of major disasters in various parts of the world.
An earthquake in the Indian Ocean in late 2004 generated tsunamis that devastated especially the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.
Before the accident, on the southern coast of India, flocks of flamingos pairing and nesting departed for interior forests away from the shores.
The most curious case was that of some elephants used in tourism on the beach in KhaoLak, Thailand, that unexplained went up a hill like crazy just before the swell.
The elephants climbed a height not reached then by the waves, and that was why any of those heavy animals was found among the many corpses on the coast.
Malay Fishermen of Kuala Muda area reported numerous dolphins jumping and moving sharply near the coast two days before the disaster.
Catches were multiplied in those days because the fish had allegedly fled the epicentre of the undersea earthquake, though they did not calculate that their human predators were waiting for them with nets and other fishing gear.
Four years later, before the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, the streets of a province near the epicentre got full with thousands of frogs.
In March 2010, minutes before the earthquake in Taiwan, nearly a thousand crocodiles from a farm in the town of Tainan crowded shouting in an unusual way that scared many visitors, who might have taken to their heels avoiding the dangerous situation.
Considering such evidences, it would be reasonable to create early warning systems using the latest available technology combined with the primitive warning system of animals.