When Nature Surprises: Crocodiles Push a Drowning Dog Out to Safety

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic

Sometimes, nature can truly take us by surprise, providing stories that both shock and warm the heart. Recently, the whole world was stunned by an awe-inspiring animal-by-animal rescue that occurred in India and was written about in the  Journal of Threatened Taxa. A stray dog, which was chased by a pack of other, feral dogs, accidentally fell into the River Savitri, situated in the Maharashtra state in India.

However, the poor dog jumped from one danger into another. The river was infested by a group of fierce mugger crocodiles. Three of them quickly approached the struggling stray pooch. In most cases – as per the rules of nature -– this would spell a quick end for the dog: crocodiles are ferocious predators and eat anything and everything. But just then, a true miracle of nature happened: the crocs appeared to usher the dog back to safety off 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," one of the Indian 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."

Exactly why the crocodiles chose to spare the dog and push it to safety remains a true mystery of nature. The mugger crocs, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, are usually quite aggressive and voracious. But in this case, they were perfectly docile, much to everyone’s surprise. 

One unique theory proposed by the researchers is that crocodiles have empathy and emotional intelligence, something that was usually considered non-existent in crocs. Could this be true? Or was this just some weird fluke of nature? To make matters even weirder, the scientists in India discovered that these crocodiles have a strange obsession with marigold flowers. The working theory is that they prefer these orange blossoms because they have antimicrobial properties and they live in sewer-infested waters – it’s a little bit out there, but hey, we’re not experts on India’s mugger crocodiles.

All in all, it appears, after all, that mugger crocodiles are much more than big violent brutes. Their shocking display of kindness stunned the world and is proof that, perhaps, these animals can show empathy like many other creatures. There is a lot we yet have to learn about these enigmatic creatures. It could be a bit difficult, however, because they usually tend to be hostile to humans. Some areas of coastal India and Sri Lanka have large populations of mugger crocodiles living near people. This leads to some of the highest frequencies of attacks on humans anywhere in the world. This caused many scientists to quickly dismiss the possibility of crocs having any form of empathy – but we like to think that in the case of this unusual dog rescue, it was a beautiful case of compassion in the animal kingdom rather than a coincidence.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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