A lone stray dog, finding itself unexpectedly encircled by three menacing crocodiles upon entering their river territory, must have felt its survival was hanging by a thread.
Yet, in a remarkable twist of fate, two of the crocodiles made a surprising choice. They used their snouts to gently guide the young stray dog to safety after it had taken refuge in the river to escape a menacing group of feral dogs.
Experts suggest that instead of making a meal out of the stray dog, the marsh crocodiles acted as benevolent guides, ushering it away from the riverbank where a pack of barking dogs awaited, all in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
The scientists, in a report published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, noted that the crocodiles were actively using their snouts to make physical contact with the dog, gently encouraging it to move towards a secure pathway onto the riverbank, facilitating its eventual escape.
Their observation was particularly intriguing, as the crocodiles were well within striking distance and could have effortlessly made a meal of the dog. Nevertheless, they refrained from aggression and, rather remarkably, opted to guide the dog to safety. This behavior strongly suggests an absence of hunger drive in the crocodiles during this unusual encounter.
The scientists remain puzzled as to why the marsh crocodiles, some of which can reach weights of up to 1,000 pounds, did not view the stray dog as a potential meal. However, they suggest that marsh crocodiles, also known as muggers, are not consistently aggressive and that this incident could demonstrate a display of emotional intelligence.
The concept of “emotional empathy,” which involves one species having the capacity to feel emotions for another, has not been extensively studied in muggers, according to the scientists. They propose that the unusual case of a dog being “rescued” by a group of crocodiles may align more with empathy than altruistic behavior.
In conclusion, the scientists assert, “Reptiles have been underestimated as far as animal cognition is concerned.” This intriguing incident challenges conventional beliefs about the cognitive capabilities of reptilian species.
Marsh crocodiles, primarily found in India, can grow to impressive sizes, with adult males reaching lengths of up to 18 feet and weighing up to 1,000 pounds.
In an intriguing revelation, the researchers also uncovered a unique fondness that marsh crocodiles seem to have for marigolds. They observed these muggers frequently floating and basking amidst the yellow flowers along the banks of the Savitri river.
The scientists speculated that the marigold’s properties might provide some form of protection against fungi and bacteria for the crocodiles, leading to this unusual behavior.
‘This behaviour is novel and intriguing,’ the researchers said while adding the behaviour needed further investigation.’