A small farm in the heart of Italy, which was seriously affected by earthquakes, has become a laboratory for investigating the ability of animals to predict underground jolts. Scientists have been studying their behavior since autumn and soon will publicize the results.
The series of earthquakes in Italy began in August last year. For six months, there have been thousands of underground jolts that cost the country 23 billion euros. Moreover, thousands of homeless people appeared and about three hundred people were killed.
After a catastrophic earthquake in October, scientists went to the Angeli farm, which is engaged in the production of sheep and cow’s milk cheese. When the researchers went to the firm store, it was completely destroyed, and shelves with cheese were on the ground.
The German researcher Martin Vikelski – biologist, head of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology – placed sensors on rabbits, sheep, cows, turkeys, chickens, and dogs on the farm. These are small devices that measure every movement of animals, their direction, speed, temperature, humidity, acceleration, and location. The sensor is powered by a small solar panel. Successful research results will allow to predict an earthquake a few hours before it happens. This will give time to evacuate people from a dangerous area.
The owners of the farm on which the research is conducted have experienced difficult times themselves. After the earthquake in autumn, a large family spent summer in camps and tight containers with DIY bathrooms and a mini-kitchen. The victims of the earthquake were located in hotels on the Adriatic coast, but the family remained – they had to look after the animals. Only in May, they began to live in the house. Farm owners hope that the research results will prevent catastrophic consequences in the future.
Recently, sensors had been removed from animals and scientists had begun the analysis. Earlier, from 2012 to 2014 Martin Vikelski investigated the behavior of goats and sheep at the foot of Etna in Sicily:
“For two years animals have predicted major volcanic eruptions a few hours before they began. At night they woke up and behaved nervously, in the daytime – hid in places with developed vegetation, which protected the animals from the streams of lava, assures Martin Vikelski.
Since October, when researchers have installed the sensors, there has been a large number of earthquakes that provided the necessary data for research.
According to the previous results, the animals had really changed their behavior a few hours before the earthquake, but more information will become available later.