When a stray dog escaping from a group of wild canines sought shelter in a shallow river in India, the dog quickly drew the attention of three approaching crocodiles. Researchers report that these crocodiles — also known as “muggers” — were easily capable of preying on the young pup. Instead, they chose a different path and worked together to guide the pup to safety using their snouts, as per CBS News.

Research published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa states that the marsh crocodiles initially demonstrated a classic predator instinct.

However, upon further observation, researchers discovered that two out of the three crocodiles showed “docile behavior.” They helped rescue the stray pup from the group of feral dogs waiting on the riverbank. The crocs went as far as touching the pooch with their snouts — nudging him to move to a safer place on the bank. 

Scientists have noted this behavior in the Savitri River in Maharashtra, an Indian state, where they have conducted research for years.

Further studies are needed to understand emotional awareness among animals

The muggers were once known for their tendency to prey on canines. However, recent observations have painted a more complex picture of the reptiles. Researchers now suspect that these crocodiles may possess a previously unacknowledged level of “emotional intelligence.”

In fact, the scientists propose that the muggers’ surprising actions could be the result of true “sentient” nature and even “emotional empathy.” However, this behavior has yet to be fully studied.

Moving forward, these findings highlight the urgent need for further research into the emotional capabilities of animals. It’s entirely possible that there are many other instances of complex animal behavior that we’ve yet to uncover.

The research challenges the idea that reptiles are only capable of simple reflexes. According to the study, crocodilians are, in fact, “arguably the most cognitively complex living non-avian reptiles.” This contradicts the commonly held belief that these creatures are lethargic and slow-moving.

Furthermore, scientists have documented that crocodiles in the Savitri River exhibit an attraction to marigold flowers floating in the water. The crocodiles appear to be drawn to their red and orange hues and have been observed engaging in “physical contact” with them. It’s uncertain whether this is a form of play or if the crocodiles are simply taking advantage of the petals’ antimicrobial properties.

Regardless, the crocodiles’ attempts to rescue the stray dog challenge traditional views of reptilian cognition. Moreover, these findings underscore the need for continued research to unveil the depths of intelligence within the animal kingdom.

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