Early Warning Lemurs

On August 23, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 5.8 struck central Virginia, causing reverberations up and down America’s eastern coast, with reports coming in from New York City to North Carolina. Earthquakes are quite rare in this area of the country — many life-long residents attested that this was their first experience with one. Not a soul was able to predict the tremor.

Unless you count some red ruffed lemurs living in a zoo.

The day after the quake, the National Zoo in Washington D.C. issued a press release, recounting how various animals within their confines reacted to the earthquake.  An elephant, rattled from the shaking, went into its habitat, refusing to come out even for its afternoon feeding. The snakes, which are typically idle during the day, were writhing restlessly. The lions turned and faced the building during the earthquake, settling down a few minutes later. A few species of deer evacuated their barns, while the flamingoes — 64 of them — gathered together in a group until the danger had passed.

But the lemurs? They started sounding the warning alarm — fifteen minutes before the earthquake began. There was apparently no other cause for alarm, limiting the possibility of this being a coincidence. Further, after the earthquake ended, the lemurs repeated the same alarm call, as if to suggest that the coast was clear. A formal study of the animals’ reaction (and not one limited to just the lemurs) is underway, but early results have lead some to joke that if you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you may want to make your next pet a lemur.

But do not invest in a pet panda — according to the National Zoo, the giants pandas in their care did not react to the earthquake at all. 

Bonus fact: The U.S. Geological Survey tracks earthquakes both domestically and abroad — and there are a lot more earthquakes than you’d think.  In 2010 alone, there were, worldwide, over 10,000 earthquakes of 4.5 magnitude or greater.  From 2000 to date, there have been just under 45,000 earthquakes in the United States, but thankfully, there have been no recorded deaths resulting from them.

From the ArchivesKentucky, Disconnected: The main story has nothing to do with the above, but the bonus fact is spot on.

Related: Can’t afford a lemur? Perhaps this $30 “earthquake alarm” will help? (Probably not.)

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