How did animals at the National Zoo react to the Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011?

Seismic waves from this week's rare 5.8 earthquake centered in Virginia were felt by critters at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., according to a news release from the zoo. None of the animals or humans at the zoo were harmed.

But the workers who care for the animals did observe their behavior, and if this possibly tongue-in-cheek press release is to be believed, some critters appeared to have sensed the quake vibrations before humans did. Then again, it could be the case that these animals are always farting and burping and screeching (Lemurs, I'm looking at you), and that the reported behavior is nothing unusual.

Let's look at the Great Apes (a group that includes the orangutan shown above):

• The earthquake hit the Great Ape House and Think Tank Exhibit during afternoon feeding time.

• About five to ten seconds before the quake, many of the apes, including Kyle (an orangutan) and Kojo (a Western lowland gorilla), abandoned their food and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in the exhibit.
About three seconds before the quake, Mandara (a gorilla) let out a shriek and collected her baby, Kibibi, and moved to the top of the tree structure as well.

• Iris (an orangutan) began "belch vocalizing"—an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation—before the quake and continued this vocalization following the quake.

Read about everyone else: Press Release: National Zoo Animals React to the Earthquake – National Zoo.

Photo: "Washington National Zoo, Orangutan puzzlement." Contributed to the Boing Boing Flickr Pool by William Coyle