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Imagine walking down the street and suddenly noticing that birds are flying in an erratic manner, dogs are howling loudly, and animals are acting strangely. A few moments later, a devastating earthquake hits your city and causes widespread destruction. This is exactly what happened in Turkey and Syria in 2021 when a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake took the lives of more than 5,000 people. Social media was flooded with reports of unusual animal behavior before the earthquake, leading people to wonder if animals can predict earthquakes better than humans.

Source: Middle East Eye/Youtube

The idea that animals can sense earthquakes before humans is not new and has been around since ancient times. However, it is not just a myth, there is science that supports this claim. Animals are equipped to sense tiny foreshocks traveling through the Earth seconds before more powerful earthquake waves arrive. The U.S. Geological Survey explains that this is because animals are better able to feel the primary (P) waves that are emitted first from an earthquake and travel at several miles per second. These P waves are followed by secondary (S) waves that shake the ground in a rolling motion and are more noticeable to humans.

While seismology machines can detect initial tremors and are used in early-warning systems to predict earthquakes, the question remains whether animals can sense earthquakes even earlier and better than these machines. A study conducted by Martin Wikelski, a director at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, provides evidence that animals can sense earthquakes before their foreshocks. In the study, electronic tags were attached to cows, dogs, and sheep on an Italian farm, and their movements were observed over several months during earthquakes. The research found that the animals were unusually active before seven of the eight major earthquakes detected nearby, suggesting that they may be able to detect earthquakes more than 12 hours before humans.

The reason why animals react unusually to earthquakes is not yet clear, but Wikelski believes that their ability to sense danger may be related to their ability to communicate with each other. In his study, animals may have been able to detect earthquakes up to 12 miles from their epicenter. However, a 2018 review of 700 recorded claims of abnormal animal behavior before earthquakes called for more evidence before drawing conclusions. The existing evidence was deemed too anecdotal and retrospective to be reliable.

Despite this, there are still numerous high-profile examples from history and the present that suggest that animals can sense earthquakes. One of the earliest accounts comes from the Roman writer Aelian, who details how mice, snakes, centipedes, and beetles fled the city of Helike before it was destroyed by an earthquake and a tsunami in 373 B.C. In 2016, 15 minutes before an earthquake struck Oklahoma, birds took flight in such significant numbers that thousands of them could be observed airborne by radar technology.

In conclusion, while more research is needed to determine if animals can predict earthquakes better than humans and how they do it, there is evidence that supports the idea that animals can sense earthquakes before they occur. As we strive to live sustainably and minimize our impact on the environment, it is important that we continue to study the unique ways in which animals interact with their environment and use this information to better understand our planet. So, let’s not ignore the signs from our furry and feathered friends – if you notice any unusual animal behavior, make sure to report it to the relevant authorities, who can use this information to improve earthquake preparedness and save lives.

How to Help Turkey and Syria

Even before the crisis, over 15 million people in Syria were in need of humanitarian assistance according to The International Rescue Committee (IRC). Funding is urgently needed to help people who have been affected by the earthquakes. The IRC is working to provide emergency services to families in Turkey and Syria and refugee families in countries around the world. For a limited time, monthly donations will be matched as the organization works to Support communities during this crisis. They currently have over 1,000 staff inside Syria working tirelessly to provide lifesaving Support and they will be scaling up their response in Turkey as well.

Your donation will go to providing cash and essential items, such as household kits, dignity kits for women and girls, and hygiene supplies including towels and blankets. Donations will also Support essential health services in affected areas and set up safe spaces for women and children affected by the crisis. Click here to learn more about donating.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is also collecting funds for its disaster response emergency fund. This will Support “immediate cash assistance” in affected areas.

Remember when donating that you should never provide personal details, bank account information, or other information without verifying the organization or individual collecting donations.

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