China has come up with an earthquake prediction system which relies on the behaviour of snakes, state media said on Thursday, two days after two quakes struck off neighbouring Taiwan.
The earthquake bureau in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi autonomous region in southern China, had developed its system using a combination of natural instinct and modern technology, the China Daily newspaper said.
Experts at the bureau monitor snakes at local snake farms via video cameras linked to a broadband Internet connection. The video feed runs 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.
Jiang said snakes, a popular restaurant dish in the south in the winter, could sense an earthquake from 120 km away, three to five days before it happens. They respond by behaving strangely.
"When an earthquake is about to occur, snakes will move out of their nests, even in the cold of winter," Jiang was quoted as saying.
"If the earthquake is a big one, the snakes will even smash into walls while trying to escape."
China is struck by frequent earthquakes, with most hitting remote rural areas.
Two people were killed and 42 injured on Tuesday when three buildings collapsed in earthquakes that shook southern Taiwan. While a tsunami warning came to nothing, the quake damaged undersea telecommunication cables, affecting users across Asia.