On October 8, 2005, my mother and I were just relaxing at home. In the heavenly peace of our own house, we both suddenly realized that an eerie silence had descended outside. You see, the birds had gone silent. At that moment in time, my mother remarked, “Something bad is going to happen.” A few hours later, we heard that a 7.6 magnitude earthquake had struck Pakistan and Kashmir.
I was reminded of the experience my mother and I had when I heard of the devastating earthquake in Nepal yesterday. With a magnitude of 7.9 and a depth of 15 KM, the quake struck at 11.26 hours local time. The epicentre was around 80 KM North-West of Kathmandu, the capital. As of this morning, latest reports on CNN say that at least 1805 people have been killed and around 4,718 injured. The toll is expected to rise – in lost lives, injured people and centuries old monuments reduced to rubble.
The images being streamed from Nepal saddened me. But it also made me wonder if anyone at all had been alerted to impending disaster when the cuckoo stopped calling. Along with the calls from 34 different species of migratory birds who flock to Nepal every summer*.
Mumbo-Jumbo? Not at all. For one, I have personally experienced the phenomenon of the birds and animals falling absolutely silent before natural disasters. Second, there is anecdotal evidence of unusual animal behaviour before an earthquake as far back in human history as Greece, 373 BC.
There is a scientific theory to explain the phenomena too. According to the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) website, “We can easily explain the cause of unusual animal behavior seconds before humans feel an earthquake. Very few humans notice the smaller P wave that travels the fastest from the earthquake source and arrives before the larger S wave. But many animals with more keen senses are able to feel the P wave seconds before the S wave arrives.”*
True, much research still needs to be done to establish a conclusive link between unusual animal behaviour and earthquakes or other natural disasters. But surely anecdotal evidence will help such research? Especially when there were also plenty of stories of animals retreating inland before the 2004 Asian earthquake and tsunami hit.
Mother Nature, it seems, has her own warning system. Sadly, however, civilisation has mostly severed the finely tuned connection the homo sapiens species must have once had with her. For, I am quite sure that primitive man must have been able to pick up the smaller P wave just as birds and animals are still able to. And, if animals were able to retreat inland well before the tsunami struck, perhaps the warning system gives living creatures more than a few seconds.
What is done is done. We, humans, may no longer be able to sense the smaller P wave. But surely we can be sensitised to the behaviour of birds and animals? Have we lost our connection to Nature so much that we are blind to even that?
I wonder if birds and animals exhibited unusual behaviour before the Nepal earthquake yesterday. And, if they did, I wonder as to how many human lives may have been saved?
I write this post in the hope that it serves as a wake-up call and in the hope of preventing more human tragedy the next time the cuckoo stops calling. Nature will always be more powerful. We may not be able to save homes and heritage monuments. But if we save lives, those can always be rebuilt.
I leave you with a request to pray for the Nepali people in their hour of bereavement. And, to pray for the light to dawn on all of us.
#NepalEarthquake #NepalQuake #Nepal #Kathmanduquake
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Featured Image Credit: Eurasian cuckoo by ChanduBandi (Flickr.com CC BY 2.0)
*Oliver Margry. Nepal Heaven for Migratory Birds. March 7, 2010. Himalayan Footsteps website.
*Animals and Earthquake Prediction. USGS website.