In a remarkable and unexpected incident, a trio of crocodiles stepped in to save a stranded dog in a river, raising the possibility of a moment of “emotional empathy” from these reptiles.
Ordinarily, if someone mentioned a video depicting an encounter between three mugger crocodiles and a dog, you’d likely assume the worst for the dog, right?
However, a report published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa details an unusual case where a young dog was chased into the shallow waters of India’s Maharashtra’s Savitri River by a group of feral dogs.
The incident footage revealed the dog seemingly oblivious to the nearby crocodiles, slowly inching their way closer.
Surprisingly, instead of attacking the dog, the crocodiles used their snouts to nudge the dog to safety.
Moreover, the video seemed to show the crocodiles guiding the dog to a section of the riverbank clear of feral dogs, allowing the dog to make a safe escape. Quite a relief!
The study’s authors remarked, “What initially appeared to be a typical predatory instinct of the crocodile soon turned into a more gentle behavior by two of the three crocodiles that guided the dog away from the danger.”
Researchers suggested that this “curious” incident might indicate “sentient behavior suggestive of cross-species empathy.”
The study continued, “Given that the mugger crocodile was well within striking range and could have easily preyed on the dog, yet none of them attacked and instead chose to nudge it towards the bank, implies that the hunger drive was absent.”
“We propose this to be a case of sentient behavior of the mugger resulting in cross-species ’emotional empathy,’ which is not extensively studied behavior, although the capacity of one species to experience the emotional feelings of another species deserves recognition.”
However, the researchers also cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the crocodiles’ behavior, as there is limited research on the mental capabilities of these reptiles.