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.

Check out a gallery with more animal reactions here.

National Zoo

Giant Pandas
Howler Monkeys
Elephant Shrews
Scimitar-Horned Oryxes