Animals at the National Zoo React to D.C. Earthquake

Plenty of East Coast humans may have freaked out during yesterday's earthquake, but what about the animals? At the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., some animals were slightly jittery, while many weathered the quake with grace and aplomb. Except for the black-and-rufous giant elephant shrew. He was a real wuss.

The National Zoo issued a report this morning detailing how their mammals, reptiles, fish and birds reacted to the 5.9 magnitude earthquake. Some definitely took it better than others.

Click for a photo gallery of the animals' reactions to the quake.

"Iris (an orangutan) began 'belch vocalizing' — an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation — before the quake and continued this vocalization following the quake," the zoo's communications office says. "Damai (a female Sumatran tiger) jumped at the start of the earthquake in a startled fashion. Her behavior returned to normal after the quake."

Unfortunately for several taxa, the earthquake hit right at feeding time, meaning some creatures' meals were rudely interrupted. The beavers and some hooded mergansers (ducks) were eating when the quake hit, and the ducks immediately jumped into their pool. The apes abandoned their food, too, and climbed to the top of their habitat.

Some animals needed a human to help them calm down:

"Immediately after the quake the female Eld's deer herd began alarm calling (a high staccato barking sound) until they were called by their keeper," the report says. "Subsequently all congregated in the corner of the pasture nearest the keeper for a short time."

Many of the big animals were totally unfazed, however. "The Prezwalski's horses and scimitar-horned oryx hardly noticed," the zoo report says, "although those that were inside did amble outside eventually."

And the zoo's most prized residents?

"According to keepers, the giant pandas did not appear to respond to the earthquake," the zoo says. Yeah, good for them.

Beavers

Says the National Zoo: "Keepers were feeding the beavers and hooded mergansers (a species of duck) when the earthquake hit. The ducks immediately jumped into the pool. The beavers stopped eating, stood on their hind legs and looked around, then got into the water, too. They all stayed in the water. Within an hour, some of the beavers returned to land to continue eating." Image credit: Wikimedia (Cszmurlo)Wikimedia Commons

Giant Pandas

Says the National Zoo: "According to keepers, the giant pandas did not appear to respond to the earthquake." Hell, when there's bamboo to be eaten, why get worked up about the ground shaking beneath you? Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Howler Monkeys

Says the National Zoo: "The howler monkeys sounded an alarm call just after the earthquake." Howler monkeys: not too different from you or I or anyone with a Twitter account. Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Orangutans

Says the National Zoo: "Iris (an orangutan) began "belch vocalizing"—an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation—before the quake and continued this vocalization following the quake." "About five to ten seconds before the quake, many of the apes, including Kyle (an orangutan) and Kojo (a Western lowland gorilla), abandoned their food and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in the exhibit." Again, not too different from us. I don't know about anyone else but I was belch-vocalizing up a storm yesterday. Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Gorillas

Says the National Zoo: "About three seconds before the quake, Mandara (a gorilla) let out a shriek and collected her baby, Kibibi, and moved to the top of the tree structure as well." "About five to ten seconds before the quake, many of the apes, including Kyle (an orangutan) and Kojo (a Western lowland gorilla), abandoned their food and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in the exhibit." This is my favorite picture; I can imagine that the gorilla is really trying to puzzle out what just happened. Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Elephant Shrews

Says the National Zoo: "The black-and-rufous giant elephant shrew hid in his habitat and refused to come out for afternoon feeding." The elephant shrew pictured here is actually a short-eared, not a giant elephant shrew, but we imagine most elephant shrews hide in similar ways. Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Tigers

Says the National Zoo: "Damai (a female Sumatran tiger) jumped at the start of the earthquake in a startled fashion. Her behavior returned to normal after the quake." This one elicited "awwws" from the PopSci crew, most of whom are cat owners and lovers. "Just like when I clap my hands when my kitten doesn't expect it!" Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Lions

Says the National Zoo: "The lion pride was outside. They all stood still and faced the building, which rattled during the quake. All settled down within minutes." Lions: incredibly dignified. Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Scimitar-Horned Oryxes

Says the National Zoo: "The Prezwalski's horses and scimitar-horned oryx hardly noticed although those that were inside did amble outside eventually." All joking aside, this was basically my reaction. If it included "...hardly noticed, and kept blogging, although..." it'd be even more accurate. Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Cuttlefish

Says the National Zoo: "One of the volunteers at the Invertebrate Exhibit was feeding the cuttlefish and it was not responsive. The water is normally very calm in the tank, but the earthquake caused the tank to shake and created waves, which distracted the cuttlefish during feeding." Cuttlefish are easily rattled. Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Flamingos

Says the National Zoo: "The Zoo has a flock of 64 flamingos. Just before the quake, the birds rushed about and grouped themselves together. They remained huddled during the quake." Flamingos are adorable. Image credit: Flickr user szekeFlickr user szeke

Snakes

Says the National Zoo: "All the snakes began writhing during the quake (copperheads, cotton mouth, false water cobra, etc.). Normally, they remain inactive during the day." This is actually really scary, especially because the named snakes are super poisonous. Image credit: Flickr user Charles HaynesFlickr user Charles Haynes