A Chinese zoo is monitoring its animals extra carefully to study how their behaviour predicts earthquakes, the China Daily said on Tuesday.

Guangzhou Zoo, in the southern province of Guangdong, had set up observation points near peacocks, frogs, snakes, turtles, deer and squirrels to monitor and record their behaviour for the city's seismology office.

"We have found many animals behave oddly before an earthquake," the newspaper quoted experts as saying. "Hibernating animals, for example, will wake up and flee from their caves, while the aquatic ones will leap from the water's surface."

The report did not say how long before a quake the animals react, or whether the aim of the exercise was to provide timely warnings.

According to the seismology office, abnormal behaviour can be observed among 130 animals before an earthquake.

"Mice and snakes, for instance, normally do not leave their hiding places during day time, but you will see them scurrying about when an earthquake is about to strike," the newspaper quoted Chen Honghan, vice-director of Guangzhou Zoo, as saying.

Chen said giraffes ran away from trees for fear of being crushed, while hippos headed for land, and in the case of a tsunami, they kept diving into deep water to protect themselves from the waves.

The earthquake bureau in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi autonomous region in southern China, monitors snakes at local snake farms via video cameras 24 hours per day.

"Of all the creatures on Earth, snakes are perhaps the most sensitive to earthquakes," bureau director Jiang Weisong was quoted as saying in December.

China is struck by frequent earthquakes, most hitting remote rural areas.