With all the technology available to us in this day and age, one would imagine it would be easy to predict the weather? But alas, how many times have we been let down by a weather prediction that hasn’t come true? I for one, have been on the receiving end quite a few times for my “expert analysis” right before a game drive! The most feared question before going on drive with thunderclouds brewing and a storm imminent is definitely “is it going to rain”? So you swallow your pride, say no, and hope for the best! Unfortunately you can guess what happens next…. Five minutes later it is pouring down and your prediction has gone down the Sand River!
Fortunately for us as guides and visitors to the beautiful landscapes of Londolozi, we can use reptiles and amphibians such as snakes, tortoises, frogs and even crocodiles to predict the weather for us. For thousands of years scientists have been baffled by the movement patterns of animals before a weather system or storm moves through an area. It has not been proven scientifically that these animals are 100% accurate, but I will trust their prediction skills over any website any day. Animals have senses that help them locate prey or predators, why can’t these senses help them predict the weather?
There is a school of thought that frogs and crocodiles may sense chemical changes in groundwater that occur when an earthquake is about to strike. These animals live in or around water and are especially sensitive to any changes in its chemistry. Therefore they might be able to sense the chemical imbalance (usually associated with an earthquake) a couple of days before the earthquake hits. Frogs and toads also seem to croak louder and longer before rain.
Snakes seem to be especially sensitive to weather changes. This is to be expected, as these animals are more exposed and less hidden from storms than most of the other animals on the list. Being so close to the ground, snakes seem to have an extraordinary sense of feel. The can detect animals approaching from miles away, and therefore it is believed that they will be able to detect the slightest vibration or tremor that might precede an earthquake. It has been recorded that snakes exhibit erratic behaviour, moving out of their nests in the middle of winter (during hibernation) to try and escape severe weather or natural disasters!
Certain cultures have a very high regard for snakes as weather predictors and even believe that a snakeskin hanging from an object, like a twig or branch means imminent rain…
The Leopard tortoise, is according to me, one of the best meteorologists you will find at Londolozi. These amazing animals can detect the slightest change in barometric pressure (usually associated with a frontal system) and head towards higher ground. Two or three days before a Bushveld lighting storm engulfs us with its raw power and cacophony of sounds, these shielded herbivores will make their way to higher ground to avoid being swept away by the sudden rise of water.
The leopard tortoise however is not the only notable predictor of weather,
373 B.C.: Was one of the first instances where historians actually recorded hundreds of animals deserting a Greek city just days before a devastating earthquake tore the city to shreds.
On December 26, 2004, one of the largest tsunamis of all time brought massive destruction to countries along the Indian Ocean as the gigantic wave swept through various cities. It was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of human kind and at least 200,000 people lost their lives. Amazingly, wildlife officials at Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park reported that no animal deaths occurred. The National Park is populated by hundreds of wild animals including elephants, leopards, snakes, tortoises and various other animals. Researchers believe that these animals were able to sense the danger long before humans.
There have also been examples where authorities forecast an earthquake by observing the behaviour of animals. A unique example of this is: In 1975, officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng, a large Chinese city with a population of approximately one million people, a couple of days before an earthquake hit (The earthquake registered 7,3 on the Richter scale). Had the city not been evacuated, it could have been a disaster of horrific proportions. Luckily, the earthquake only affected a very minute portion of the population. This of one of the most famous example of animal behaviour, used to predict an earthquake
We, as humans, seemed to have lost touch with the natural world in more ways than one. We rely heavily on technology and neglect signs that these astonishing animals provide and show us, the same signs that historians have used for thousands of years. We should just take a moment out of our busy schedules (and I know everyone is extremely busy) and appreciate nature for what it is. A Beautiful wonder that gives us hope, makes us feel in awe, and fulfils all our dreams…
Have you ever noticed weather related animal behaviour?
Written by: Werner Breedt