Seismologists in China have established an official 'early-warning centre' for earthquakes that will monitor seven farms full of animals looking for odd changes in behaviour:
One of the seismic stations is an ecological garden in Yuhuatai district, containing 200 black boars, 2,000 chickens, and a 2 square kilometers of fish pond. Cameras are installed around the animals' living environment to observe their behavior.
Their feeders report to the seismological bureau twice a day on any abnormal behavior that professionals will analyze for whether a possible earthquake is imminent.
Advance notice of impending earthquakes remains the holy grail of seismology, as there is still no reliable predictor of these sometimes devastating events. I recently noted here on TDG there is a long-held belief in many cultures that a number of animal species can sense an earthquakes coming:
Changes in behaviour have been noted in laboratory mice, daily rhythms of ants have reportedly been disrupted, and cows have been observed to behave unusually (in one case an entire herd of cows was witnessed lying down in unison before an earthquake struck). There were reports of elephants and flamingos heading to higher ground before the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, and more recently of zoo animals acting strangely before an earthquake that struck Washington, D.C. One of the earliest reports of animal behaviour predicting earthquakes is from Greece in 373 BC, when rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes were said to have left their usual homes several days before it struck. that appeared to provide support for the idea that animals can sense earthquakes in advance.
In that same post I also discussed a recent scientific study which appears to support this idea. Researchers monitored nine 'camera traps' in Yanachaga National Park in Peru to monitor the movements of animals in the park, and found correlations between the number of animals and earthquake activity.
China is a hotspot for earthquake activity, so it might not be long until we find out whether this new 'outside-the-box' early-warning system works effectively.