Animal instincts: Chinese city uses dogs to predict quakes

Animal instincts: Chinese city uses dogs to predict quakes
A Chinese city is pioneering the use of dogs to forecast tremors following the Sichuan quake that killed around 200 people. Officials claim dogs exhibit “abnormal behavior” before quakes, and have suggested ducks and chickens could also be used.

Officials announced on Tuesday that authorities in the eastern city of Nanchang were using canines as a quake warning system. Apparently, the local government was obliged to reveal their initiative following a barrage of complaints from residents over so-called “false alarms” in the form of barking.

The city’s government had started to use dogs at the request of provincial authorities, an official named Song told AFP. He denied that there had been any complaints from residents over barking, but did note that the dogs had been moved to a lower-level earthquake bureau.

Chinese social media was hit by a wave of comments concerning the nightly ruckus, local news website Dajiang reported.

"The compound of the Nanchang earthquake authority has I don't know how many dogs, every night at 11:00pm they start barking over and over," a social media user was quoted as saying. He went on to recommend muzzling the animals as a countermeasure to the noise.

China, which is one of the most seismic countries in the world, has done numerous studies into the use of animals in predicting quakes. Following a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in 1974 in Tangshan that killed over 200,000 people, a group of scientists conducted a survey into the reactions of animals in the area. They conglomerated over 2,000 cases of out-of-the-ordinary animal behavior, mostly exhibited by house pets.

However, in 2011 the International College of Economics and Finance (ICEF) published a report disproving the purported connection between the behavior of animals and earthquakes.

"There is no credible scientific evidence that animals display behaviors indicative of earthquake-related environmental disturbances that are unobservable by the physical and chemical sensor systems available to earthquake scientists," the report said.

Despite these findings, officials in Nanchang insist that not only dogs have a sixth sense for tremors, but also ducks and chickens.