Sri Lankan wildlife officials on Thursday said the giant waves that killed thousands of people along the Indian Ocean island's coast seemingly missed wild beasts, with no dead animals found.

 

"No elephants are dead, not even a dead hare or rabbit. I think animals can sense disaster," HD Ratnayake, deputy director of Sri Lanka's Wildlife Department, said on Wednesday.

 

"They have a sixth sense. They know when things are happening."

 

The waves washed floodwaters up to 3km inland at Yala National Park in the ravaged southeast, Sri Lanka's biggest wildlife reserve and home to hundreds of wild elephants and several leopards.


"There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence about dogs barking or birds migrating before volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. But it has not been proven," Matthew van Lierop, an animal behaviour specialist at Johannesburg Zoo, said.

 

"There have been no specific studies because you cannot really test it in a lab or field setting," he said.

 

Other authorities concurred with this assessment.


Detecting disasters
 

"Wildlife seem to be able to pick up certain phenomena, especially birds. There are many reports of birds detecting impending disasters," Clive Walker, who has written several books on African wildlife, said.

 

"Wildlife seem to be able to pick up certain phenomenon, especially birds. There are many reports of birds detecting impending disasters"

Clive Walker,
wildlife author

Animals certainly rely on the known senses such as smell or hearing to avoid danger such as predators.

 

The notion of an animal sixth sense - or some other mythical power - is an enduring one which the evidence on Sri Lanka's battered coast is likely to add to.

 

The Romans saw owls as omens of impending disaster and many ancient cultures viewed elephants as sacred animals endowed with special powers or attributes.

 

The tsunami was triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday. It killed tens of thousands of people in Asia and East Africa.