Take the story of the dog that protected an end.anger.ed colony of v.uln.erable penguins. A Deakin University study of the 1999-2000 little penguin breeding season on Middle Island, off the coast of Warrnambool, found foxes were a threat to the colony. Foxes had mauled almost 500 little penguins in five years, leaving less than 10 penguins on the island. But local chicken farmer, Allan ‘Swampy’ Marsh, proposed a solution.
He’d used Maremma dogs to protect his commercial poultry from foxes and suggested the same concept could work on Middle Island. So, Maremma dogs were trained to keep watch. The project was hailed a raging success. The peak penguin count during the 2014/2015 breeding season was 130, thanks to Maremma guardian dogs Eudy and Tula. In 2015, Swampy’s tale was turned into a movie; Oddball starring Shane Jacobson.
Nick Branson, Animal Welfare and Services Manager at Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus, says most mammals are considered ‘sentient’, making it feasible that they would act with empathy. “A sentient animal is one considered to feel p a.i n, s.uf.fering, hunger and pleasure and to have a relationship with the environment that is determined by what it enjoys doing and to avoid things that are unpleasant,’ he adds. Branson says that instances of animal altruism are rare and scientists haven’t been able to determine exactly why it occurs because it’s usually random and unpredictable. A sentient animal is one considered to feel p a.i n, s.uf.fering, hu.nger and pleasure and to have a relationship with the environment that is determined by what it enjoys doing and to avoid things that are unpleasant.”
We see frequent examples of self-sacrifice by humans, in both professional and spontaneous capacities. What about self-sacrifice among other animals? A story about dolphins saving humans from shark attacks is an example. If a great white is lurking, you want a pod of dolphins around. ‘Dolphins make conscious decisions about when they intervene – they weigh up the situation and are selective about who and in which circumstances they help,’ Dr Diana Reiss, one of the world’s foremost dolphin experts, told Australia For Dolphins.
Rationales for self-sacrificing behavior are discussed and debated across the fields of animal behavior, evolution, ecology, psychology, and philosophy. Most biologists agree on a concept of biological altruism: an act that increases the recipient’s chances for reproductive success at the expense of the perpetrator’s.
Biological altruism presents an evolutionary puzzle. If individuals act under the pressures of self-preservation and the desire to reproduce, then why would 1 organism help another, putting its own reproductive success at risk? Further, if the tendency toward altruism is a heritable trait and individuals with the trait are less reproductively successful, then why is the frequency of altruism relatively high?
In conclusion, the reasons might be:
- Only for one reason, mutual benefit.
- Getting rid of parasites that are a food source for the other.
- Working together to get to highly prized food.
- Protection in exchange for transport
- Protection in exchange for food
- Basically, the protection from parasite or predators or food are enough reasons to form a pact.
However, sometimes it just takes the ability to cuddle to. Make animal friendships. Where food is in abundance, some animals, and most of the times mammals, can form a bond.
Pet animals also seem to be able to become friendly to another pets, even from other species. This works best between mammals, or mammals and birds. Although reptilians, like beard damages, have been seen too.
Most likely the insurance of food, shelter and protection given by humans, allows these animals to invest into interspecies friendship.