My sixth sense worth

BBC: Did animals have quake warning?

Wildlife officials in Sri Lanka have reported that, despite the loss of human life in the Asian disaster, there have been no recorded animal deaths…

Many tourists drowned but, to the surprise of officials, few dead animals have been found. It has highlighted claims that animals may possess a "sixth sense" about danger.

Yes, and I have a sixth sense about bullshit.

Pit vipers can detect body heat (infra-red radiation) through special pits in the head. That's a sixth sense of sorts (although you could say it's just another form of vision—infra-red radiation being a perfectly normal form of light). Hammerhead sharks can detect the minute electrical impulses of their prey's nervous systems at a (short) distance. That's a sixth sense. But the news item quoted above continues:

Debbie Martyr, who works on a wild tiger conservation programme on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, one of the worst-hit areas in Sunday's disaster, said she was not surprised to hear the animals had avoided the catastrophe.

"Wild animals in particular are extremely sensitive," she said. "They've got extremely good hearing and they will probably have heard this flood coming in the distance.

In other words, this mysterious sixth sense would appear to be, erm, hearing.

And there was I thinking so few tigers had been reported killed because there were so few of them alive in the first place.

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