INDIA, Sept 27, (Agencies): In the depths of an Indian river, a perilous encounter unfolded when a young dog sought refuge from a pursuing pack of feral animals. Three formidable crocodiles closed in on the vulnerable canine, so close that it seemed as if they could easily make it their next meal, according to experts. This extraordinary incident, counted in a recent report published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, sheds light on the behavior of marsh crocodiles, colloquially known as muggers, in Maharashtra, India. These adult male muggers, capable of reaching lengths of up to 18 feet and weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, are formidable creatures, yet their massive size doesn’t always translate to aggression.
In this particular instance, a young dog, pursued by a pack of feral dogs, desperately sought refuge in the Savitri River. At that critical moment, three adult muggers were observed floating nearby in the water, their attention fixed on the distressed animal.
However, rather than seizing the opportunity for an easy meal, two of the three crocodiles exhibited a surprising display of Docility. Instead of making the dog their prey, they engaged in a more benevolent act. These crocodiles guide the young animal away from the riverbank where the pack of dogs lay in wait, using their snouts to touch and gently nudge it towards safety.
The researchers documented this remarkable behavior, noting that even though the muggers could have easily captured the dog, they refrained from doing so. This implies an absence of the usual instinctual hunger drive.
The question that naturally arises is why the crocodiles chose not to seize the opportunity to eat the dog, as they have done in other instances. Even the scientists themselves remain uncertain about the precise reason. Their best hypothesis, however, suggests that the muggers may have been exhibiting a form of emotional intelligence.
The scientists propose that the crocodiles’ behavior might be attributed to “emotional empathy,” a phenomenon that allows one species to share or understand the emotional experiences of another. While not extensively studied in these animals, emotional empathy could provide an explanation for their actions. The scientists suggest that the case of the crocodiles seemingly “rescuing” the dog appears to be more aligned with empathy than altruistic behavior.
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