How Zoo Animals Predicted the DC Earthquake

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Moments before a rare, 5.8-magnitude shook Washington, D.C., the National Zoo said Wednesday many of its animals showed signs of distress -- some letting out cries, others fleeing to higher ground and some huddling together.

In the seconds before the quake struck Tuesday afternoon, several gorillas and orangutans abandoned their food and climbed to the top of a tree-like structure in the National Zoo, part of the Smithsonian Institution.

One orangutan named Iris began "belch vocalizing," which the zoo described as "an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation," just before the tremor and continued the call after.

The zoo's red ruffed lemurs also sounded an alarm call and its 64 flamingos rushed into a huddle, remaining grouped together as the ground shook.

An apparently startled female Sumatran tiger named Damai "jumped" when the earth began rumbling, but its behavior returned to normal after the 30-second tremor, the zoo said.

After the quake, some of the creatures remained upset, including a black-and-rufous giant elephant shrew -- which resembles a tiny aardvark -- that hid in its habitat and refused to come out for afternoon feeding.

Others, however, seemed unfazed by the phenomenon. "According to keepers, the giant pandas did not appear to respond," the zoo said.