Unusual Encounter: Crocodiles ‘Help’ Dog Escape from Feral Dogs in Maharashtra River, India

2023-09-23 22:00:24

The behavior was observed between salt marsh crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris), which live in the Savitri River, in Maharashtra (India), and a dog.

Photo: Utkarsha Chavan

A group of scientists in India captured an unusual scene: a group of crocodiles “helped” a dog that dived into a lake while trying to escape a pack of other feral dogs. This was recorded in an article published in the magazine Journal of Threatened Taxabut there is still no consensus among scientists about what it means.

The researchers observed a group of salt marsh crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris), which live in the Savitri River, in Maharashtra, India. According to the Wildlife Institute of India, adult male mugger crocodiles can reach five meters in length and weigh up to 453 kilograms.

The reptiles were in the river when a dog arrived, escaping from a feral herd. The crocodiles “were very close,” and could have easily hunted the dog, but none of them attacked it, the scientists noted.

Instead, “they guided the dog away from where it would have been vulnerable to attack by the pack of feral dogs waiting on the riverbank,” the researchers wrote. “These crocodiles touched the dog with their snout and pushed it away so it could climb onto the shore safely and eventually escape.” (You can also read: Global call to save the world’s largest flower from extinction)

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Within the post, they noted that they are not sure what the behavior means, although the fact that he had not been hunted implies that his hunger drive was absent. They also proposed that the behavior is a sign of the crocodiles’ “emotional empathy.”

This, these researchers indicated, allows some species to “experience” what another is feeling, but has not been thoroughly investigated in non-human animals. In any case, they said that something clear is that “reptiles have been underestimated when it comes to animal cognition.”

But not all scientists are convinced by this explanation. According to him he expressed to the portal Live Science Duncan Leitch, a biologist specializing in reptile neurophysiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the research: “Crocodiles have a sophisticated set of behaviors. “But some of these conclusions use a human definition of intelligence and try to find it in crocodiles.” (You may be interested: Indigenous people of Brazil obtain key victory in trial for Amazon lands)

The Indian researchers acknowledged that “novel and intriguing” behavior needs to be better investigated. In addition to this, they also observed others, such as “pack” hunting or the use of sticks as bait to attract herons and egrets within reach.

Another of the behaviors that most caught the attention of researchers is that, apparently, this species of crocodiles are interested in marigold flowers. The reptiles were seen floating, sunbathing and lying near the flowers, often maintaining “physical contact” with them.

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