Animal behaviour as indicators for weather forecasting and climate predictions

Animal behaviour 1100 x 480

For decades, indigenous people have observed biophysical animate and inanimate beings for weather forecast and climate predictions about current and future weather variables that cannot be sensed by humans. However, the dispossession of land and natural resources from South African natives under the previous regime resulted in generational degradation or complete loss of the use of indigenous weather forecasting, climate predictions and other traditional knowledge. More recently, climate change and the related increase in weather variability have led to a decline in the reliability of several indigenous weather forecasting and climate prediction knowledge systems. In addition, migration of rural dwellers to urban areas in search of job opportunities and improved livelihoods is yet another factor contributing to the deterioration in the use of such knowledge.

Despite the decline in indigenous weather and climate knowledge, there is also concern about the limited shift to the utilisation of modern weather forecasting and climate prediction knowledge systems among many farmers across South Africa. This is due to factors such as the following:

  • Weather forecasts are not available to many farmers who have no access to the normal dissemination channels.
  • Lack of scientific knowledge to interpret and apply weather and climate information for daily and seasonal decisions.
  • Weather forecasting systems are expensive and limited to urban areas rather than rural communities.

In view of the challenges of using modern weather and climate knowledge systems, indigenous knowledge on weather forecasting and climate predictions becomes a relevant, accessible, and affordable alternative source of climate information among the farming fraternity in South Africa, particularly in rural areas.


Farmers from all levels of society have been learning and adapting to environmental conditions in their struggle for survival and better agricultural produce. Through observations of biotic and abiotic indicators for future weather and climate conditions, worldwide cultures developed the distinguished local knowledge of when, how and where plants, animals, fungi, and algae could be used for their numerous needs. One prominent indicator is the behavioural, physiological, and reproductive characteristics of domestic and wild animal species used by locals as natural symbols for weather forecasting and climate predictions. Farming and hunting activities are determined and circumscribed by meteorological events, and in South Africa, farmers and hunters make direct observations and interpretations of animal behaviour for weather forecasting. Local farmers rely on mammals, birds, toads, snakes, ants, spiders, bees, and other insects to forecast the summer season and rainfall onset. Climate ethnozooindicators is a newly proposed term designated for animals used by humans as indicators for weather forecasting and climate predictions.

Thus, there are two categories of seasonal climate predictions: meteorological and indigenous knowledge. Such forms of forecasting may even complement each other since some endemic species that were once dominant and widely used for weather forecasting and climate predictions are disappearing. Animal behaviour has proven to be one of the most widely understood indicators and is used by farmers across the country. However, traditional indigenous weather-related faunal indicators differ across provinces, cultural and individual experiences of different communities and are applied to guide local choices regarding farming decisions.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register

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