Crocodiles push stray dog to safety after it falls into danger-filled river

Scientists believe rare rescue is a sign that the fearsome reptiles may be capable of compassion

Amelia Neath
Friday 29 September 2023 06:10 BST
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In an apparent example of interspecies compassion, a group of crocodiles appeared to usher a dog to safety after it fell into a dangerous river.

The dog, believed to be a stray, was being chased by a pack of other feral canines when it jumped into the River Savirtri in India out of harm’s way, or so it thought.

But the river was infested by local mugger crocodiles, and three of them were floating near the stray.

This should have been the end of the helpless pup, with the crocs being “well within the striking range,” according to a report published by scientists in the Journal of Threatening Taxa.

However, the crocodiles appeared to usher the dog back to safety on the shore.

“These crocodiles were actually touching the dog with their snouts and nudging it to move further for a safe ascent on the bank and eventually escape," the researchers wrote.

"The muggers were 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, implying that the hunger drive was absent."

The researchers say that the crocodiles were “docile”. Adult male mugger crocs can reach 18 feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds, according to the Wildlife Institute of India.

Scientists believe this could be a sign of emotional empathy

The researchers said they believe that the pup rescue could be a sign of the crocs having emotional intelligence.

"The curious case of a dog ‘rescued’ by the group of crocodiles reported here seems more on lines of empathy than altruistic behaviour," the scientists said.

Aside from the muggers’ apparent alliance with stray dogs, scientists discovered another wholesome obsession that the crocs appeared to have: marigold flowers.

Crocodiles are often seen floating or laying in marigolds, often keeping “physical contact” with the yellow flowers, which the researchers note have compounds that can protect skin from fungi and bacteria.

The Savitri River is polluted with sewage and other harmful ingredients, so this may be why they like to have contact with the petals.

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