We humans can learn a lot from animals. Our frisky wild friends are smart. They are natural Change Riders. That's why many species have been around this earth for millions of years. They go with the current, instead of against it. In fact, they've learned to anticipate life's changes and prepare for the inevitable with grace and ease.
Many species of animals exhibit pre-adaptive behavior -- a very wise approach to life's constant undulations. Animals don't wait until life has them up against a wall forcing a shift. Sensing the new demands of life coming down the pike, animals take the initiative. For example, many mammals developed longer body hair generations before the coming of the last Ice Age. So when the freezing temperatures came, these species were ready to deal with the new cold climate.
Sensing the Future
Precognition, or the intuitive ability to see into the future, is common with most animals. Critters usually know when a disaster is about to occur. Animals will head for high ground above the flood plain of a river hours before the cresting waters head their way. And since the beginning of recorded history, virtually every culture in the world has reported observations of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes.
In 373 BC, historians recorded that creatures deserted the Greek city of Helice in droves just days before the town was devastated and fell into the sea. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote that snakes, weasels, rats, centipedes, worms and beetles headed inland in huge numbers before the disaster. Before a 1783 earthquake in Messina, Italy, the howling of dogs in the street was so loud that the authorities issued orders to kill them.
Animal Intuition Saves the Day
It was the Chinese who were the first to successfully forecast a major earthquake using observation of animal behavior. On February 4, 1975, the Chinese successfully evacuated the city of Haicheng, a city of one million people, only days before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake -- based primarily on observations of unusual animal activity. 90% of the city's structures were destroyed in the quake, but since the entire city's population had been evacuated before the quake struck, few were injured. An estimated 240,000 lives were saved.
In 1989, Jim Berkland, a geologist in Santa Clara County, California, predicted the Lomo Prieta 7.1 magnitude earthquake by observing the number of advertisements for lost cats in local newspapers. Berkland reported that after a decade of observation, he noticed that cats tend to disappear shortly before earthquake activity.
In his book When the Snakes Awake, Helmut Tributsch lists a large number of recorded instances of extremely unusual animal behavior before an earthquake. These include seabirds flying inland, cattle reluctant to enter their stalls, fish jumping out of the water onto dry land, bees evacuating their hive in a panic, deep sea squid coming up to the ocean surface, and bears and snakes coming out of hibernation prematurely.
Rats Play Lifesaver
Another example of our lifesaving furry friends is the tendency of rats to desert a ship that is doomed to sink. Historically, sailors wouldn't board ships that the ship's rats had evacuated. Seaman had learned that a ship without rats meant that there was something fatally wrong with the ship, or that the vessel was destined to encounter disaster of some kind.
The Snow's A Comin'
And in less dramatic examples we take for granted, every wild animal senses and prepares for seasonal changes. Geese fly south way before the weather gets cooler. Squirrels stock up on nuts in the summer for the inevitable cold of winter.
Heed the Early Warning Signs
Humans could take a page or two from the animal survival guide. Life gives us signs, also, to direct us along life's rambling road. If we pay attention, these messages can help us to flow better with the present, and thereby, the future. And -- have you noticed? -- if we don't get the message, life gives us a lesson. If we don't get the lesson, life gives us a problem. If we don't handle the problem, life gives us a crisis. A wise person chooses to get the initial message!
In the Lakota Indian language, the word for "to get the message" is the same word as their word for "my life has changed." In other words, in the Lakota culture, if people don't take action on life's signs and make changes in their behavior, they didn't really "get the message." For the Lakota, receiving guidance and acting on it are one and the same. Unfortunately, in our modern society, we have the socially acceptable habit of saying we get the message