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At National Zoo, animals seemed restless prior to quake

August 24, 2011 | 12:46 pm

Mei Xiang

If the residents of Washington, D.C., didn't see yesterday’s earthquake coming, perhaps the residents of the National Zoo did.

Red ruffed lemurs sounded an alarm, apes abandoned their food, flamingos rushed into a huddle, and a gorilla let out a shriek before the magnitude 5.8-quake hit. That's according to a news release from the National Zoo, which compiled a list of "changes in animal behavior" that were observed by zoo staff.

The list describes a noisy, frantic scene at portions of the 163-acre zoological park. Just before the ground started to shake, Iris, an orangutan, "began 'belch vocalizing' -– an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation." Many of the apes, "abandoned their food and climbed to the top of a tree-like structure." And Mandara, a gorilla, "let out a shriek and collected her baby."

Meanwhile, a flock of 64 flamingos "rushed about and grouped themselves together." Once the quake began, snakes were "writhing," ducks interrupted their feeding to jump into a pool, and beavers, "stood on their hind legs and looked around, then got into the water, too."

The zoo is home to about 2,000 animals, including two giant pandas.

The pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, "did not appear to respond to the earthquake," the statement said.


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-- Kim Geiger in Washington

Photo: Some animals at the National Zoo began acting a bit oddly before the quake. The pandas, including Mei Xiang, above, however, continued their business as usual. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press