As the human death toll from the China earthquake on May 12 tops 50,000, emergency rations are being sent to some of the most endangered survivors - giant pandas.

The China Daily reports that some 4500 kilograms of bamboo leaves and 1050 kg of bamboo shoots, as well as apples, soya beans, eggs and milk powder are being sent to feed giant pandas at the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong, Sichuan province, just 30 kilometres from the epicentre. Five of the centre's workers were killed in the quake, and 2 of 53 pandas were injured.

I've visited the Wolong panda centre - I remember being struck by the number of dead, stuffed pandas displayed around the museum. They seemed to outnumber the living pandas in the grounds, and many of those appeared to be sick. According to some reports, however, the pandas at Wolong roused themselves in the minutes before the quake struck and began acting "in a strange manner".

This begs the question: Can animals predict earthquakes?

Biologist Rupert Sheldrake, for one, thinks some animals have an electromagnetic sense that allows them to predict seismic changes. Most of the "evidence" is anecdotal, but it can be compelling. Buffalo were said to have stampeded to the top of a hill just before the Asian tsunami in 2004.

I might start keeping a catfish to warn me of any upcoming quakes.