Pigs and chickens
© www.jschina.com.cn
This combo photo shows pigs and chickens used to help forecast earthquake at a breeding base of a zoo.
Nanjing city in East China's Jiangsu province has built seven new observation sites from which to make general earthquake predictions, using animals like chickens, pigs and fish to help forecast possible risks.

Seven more such sites will be built this year, including one at the breeding base of a zoo, local newspaper Modern Express reported.

At Banqiao ecological park, approximately 40 minutes drive from the city, the behavior of around 200 pigs, 2000 chickens, and fish in a 15-hectare pond is also closely monitored to detect signals of an earthquake.

Breeders here create daily reports regarding animal behavior for Nanjing's seismological departments using popular instant messaging software QQ.

Shen Zhijun, director of Hongshan Forest Zoo, said no sophisticated equipment is required to build an observation site as they rely mainly on employees closely watching the animals.

Nanjing has increased its strength in earthquake prediction with new funding allocated since last year, while animals can contribute to the effort at a macro level, sources say.

Zhao Bing, the director of the scientific monitoring department of Nanjing Seismological Bureau, said to be effective sites using animals to help anticipate an earthquake need to comply with certain requirements, such as being located in a relatively quiet environment to allow for better observation.

The belief that animals can predict earthquakes is centuries old. Some pet owners claim to have witnessed their cats and dogs acting strangely before the ground shook. But seismologists say it is nearly impossible to predict when and where an earthquake will strike.