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When birds stopped chirping and tigers slept
Published on 23 Jul. 2009 1:37 AM IST
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Lions and tigers retired to sleep, deer stood still, birds suddenly stopped chirping while young animals rushed back to their shelters - no this is not a scene from "The Jungle Book", but unusual behaviour shown by animals during the total solar eclipse Wednesday morning. These changes in behaviour in animals and birds were recorded by experts at the Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh during the celestial spectacle. "It is for the first time in the country that a step has been initiated to study animal behaviour during a solar eclipse. And much to our amazement, many animals behaved unusually - some got very dull while some were hyper-active as the sky darkened Wednesday morning," S.S. Rajput, director of the Van Vihar National Park, told IANS over telephone from Bhopal. The national park had formed 23 teams to study various animals and birds during the period of solar eclipse. "Our experts found that the tigers, lions and panthers retired to sleep as the sun was completely obscured by the moon. They became very dull while some nocturnal animals like bears got hyper-active," said Rajput. Herbivorous animals like deer and sambar also behaved strangely. "Herbivorous animals, who generally graze separately during the day, suddenly came together in a herd and stood stationary during the eclipse. Even the birds that were chirping since dawn suddenly quietened between 6.20 and 6.30 a.m.," Rajput observed. Except peacocks and lapwings, all other birds were silent throughout the totality phase. "We found the behaviour of young animals most unusual as they usually set out of their night shelters early morning and return only at night. But during the total eclipse all of them came running back and hid inside their shelters," he said. According to Rajput, the body clock of animals and birds is generally regulated by sunrise and sunset and they were bound to show some reaction during the eclipse. The experts, including zoo keepers, studied the animals for seven days July 15-21 during a fixed time to know their normal day-to-day behaviour. "We studied their behaviour during the same timings Wednesday and analysed the behavioural changes before and during the eclipse. We are yet to compile a detailed data but surely animals react to such changes," said Rajput. The national park is spread across 1,100 acres and houses several species of animals. Explaining the importance of the study, Rajput said: "The study will provide us data about how animals react to such natural phenomenon and its harmful impact, if any, on them besides the rise in anxiety levels and curiosity." According to him, none of the animals had any intuition about the eclipse, which is not the case during a tsunami or an earthquake. "We found no changes in the behaviour of animals prior to the eclipse and they were normal before the astronomical event," he said.

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