Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gir's animals sensed danger minutes before quake

Gir's animals sensed danger minutes before quake
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

At 10.45 pm Thursday night, the usual nightly silence in Gir sanctuary was suddenly broken by unusually loud birds' calls and roars of lions. There was chaos in cattle ponds in one of the ness within the forest.

This was the scene minutes before the earthquake shook the state. The epicenter of the tremor that measured 5.3 on Richter scale was in Vanthali, roughly 50 km from Sasan.

Resident of Kanika Ness in Gir area, Nanabhai Kalabhai, said, "We woke up with a start due to loud roars of lions. This too would have been usual for us but the roar was not common. Soon, we sensed some movement in the cattle pond."

"We thought the cattle were scared as the roars were too close. Before we could figure out what was happening, the earth shook violently. It was then that we understood the unusual behavior of animals was due to the earthquake," he said.

A beat guard, on night duty at a checkpost inside the sanctuary, said, "Just before the earthquake, birds started giving frantic calls. Soon after the earthquake, two lions passed me by. Usually, one can does not see such movement of big cats late in the night, unless the animal is hungry."

Another forest beat guard, who was near a ness, said, "I saw a cow and a buffalo suddenly jump into in a pond. I was taken aback as I thought that the lion might have made his way there. But within a minute, I was literally shaking and realized that the movement of the animal was because of the tremor. They could sense it much before us."

Former director of Wildlife Conservation Society-India and an expert on Gir lions, Ravi Chellam, said, "Animals are able to perceive the threat and give early calls. Sensing trouble, cattle and big cats, including lions, move to safer areas." These are very rare incidents and one has not been able to study the behavior fully.

Superintendent of the Sakarbaugh Zoo V S Rana said, "Our doctor was on a round and suddenly he heard calls of the birds. There is a usual silence late in the night and birds' calls are rare. He was standing near the chital and leopard enclosures. There was not much movement in their cages. The doctor then went to the lion enclosure only to find the big cat moving, which was unusual at that time of the night."

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