From Predators To Heroes: Crocodiles rescue dog from feral pack
In a remarkable and heartwarming incident, three mugger crocodiles in India’s Maharashtra region displayed behaviour that hints at “emotional empathy” as they saved a young dog from a potentially dire fate.
This unusual event was documented in a report published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
The story unfolds as the dog, pursued by a pack of feral dogs, sought refuge in the shallow waters of the Savitri River, unaware of the lurking danger posed by the nearby crocodiles.
Mugger crocodiles, typically regarded as “opportunistic predators” by the Wildlife Institute of India, were instead observed nudging the dog to safety using their snouts.
Astonishingly, they guided the canine to an unoccupied section of the riverbank, ensuring its escape from the relentless feral pack.
The journal’s analysis of this encounter is speculative, acknowledging the possibility that the crocodiles’ benevolent actions may have been influenced by their lack of appetite at the time.
However, the report focuses on the heartwarming hypothesis of “cross-species emotional empathy.”
The “curious” incident was uncharacteristic of the crocodiles.
The species can grow to over 16ft and 450kg, and are known to pose a major threat to humans who encroach into their natural habitats in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.
The journal explained that its analysis of the encounter was speculative, and acknowledged that the crocodiles’ kindness may simply have been due their lack of an appetite.
Its conclusion, however, focused on the more heart-warming hypothesis.
“Given that the mugger was well within the striking range and could have easily devoured the dog, yet none of them attacked and instead chose to nudge it towards the bank, implies that the hunger drive was absent,” it read.
“We propose this to be a case of sentient behaviour of the mugger resulting in cross-species ’emotional empathy’, which is not a very extensively investigated behaviour, though capacity of one species to experience the emotional feelings of another species merits recognition.
“The curious case of a dog ‘rescued’ by the group of crocodiles reported here seems more on lines of empathy than altruistic behaviour.
“However, there is little research done on such mental faculties of reptiles.”