Basil's Baby" watercolor © Drew Strouble

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tsunami: Animal Instinct

( Tsunami Stories: Animal Tales )

In Khaolak on Thailand’s Andaman seaboard some 50 miles north of Phuket, a dozen elephants that were giving tourists rides became agitated and started trumpeting hours before the tsunami came. This was around the same time the submarine earthquake occurred off the coast of Sumatra. Just before the tsunami hit, the elephants fled for higher ground – some of them escaping from their fetters – taking with them four very surprised but fortunate Japanese tourists. An official from the Khaolak National Park commented that they have not found any dead animals in the park – the animals had all fled to the hills and he believed not a single one perished in and around the park from the tsunami.
Similarly, in the south-eastern part of Sri Lanka in the Yala National Park, wildlife officials likewise reported that its animal inhabitants – tigers, elephants, buffalo, and monkeys amongst others – had escaped mostly unscathed. This was despite the tsunami which had battered the coastline bordering the park.
At the Point Calimere sanctuary on the southern coast of India, flocks of flamingos which should have been breeding at that time of the year had fled their usual breeding grounds for safer forests inland.
Fishermen from Malaysia’s tsunami-affected Kuala Muda area had reported of large numbers of dolphins swimming very close to shore – some as near as 200m – two days before the tsunami. The marine mammals were leaping into the air and flipping their tails, as though trying to catch the fishermen’s attention.
Interestingly, these same fishermen had reported hauling in up to nearly 20 times their usual catch for three straight days before the tsunami struck. It is now surmised that the fish had been fleeing from the epicentre of the coming submarine earthquake which would later generate the tsunami.
Not all animals escaped unscathed, however. Larges turtles were found dead amongst the debris along the shores of Indonesia’s devastated Aceh province.


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