In a world-first (for science) rescue attempt, a group of wild boars recently demonstrated that sometimes collaboration really does make the dream work by successfully rescuing each other from prison. Breakout attempts have only been observed in a few highly sociable species, such as rats and ants, and are thought to be a more evolved kind of empathy. According to the researchers, a female boar was not only able to escape two caged juvenile boars, but she did so with extraordinary efficiency.
For the sake of observational science, a rescue attempt is defined by four crucial qualities, as researchers must be able to distinguish it from other types of social contact. The following items are required for a successful rescue attempt:
- A sufferer who is in a bad mood.
- A rescuer who is placing their own life at jeopardy in an attempt to release the victim
- Some type of significant action done to free them, even if it fails
- There is no immediate reward to the rescuer if the victim is released (they aren’t doing it for food or sex).
This scenario was built for a group of boars featured in recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports. A trap was set amid a herd of wild boars (Sus scrofa) that would be set off when people entered it. There was a juvenile and a subadult within the trap when the doors were opened, and they began to show indications of discomfort after calculating their condition by charging at the trap’s walls and running around.
A group of eight boars, including an adult female, were sighted standing outside the cage within a few hours. As she charged at the planks that held the trap in place, the female’s mane was erect. While there are some small gaps in the visual evidence of the rescue attempt, it appears that she was able to maneuver both the front and back logs that held the trap together, eventually removing the front one totally. The cage could now be unlocked by the boar inside pushing against the fence, and they were both eventually freed, albeit it took them a long to figure it out.
The study authors noted, “The entire rescue was quick, and specific behaviors were sophisticated and precisely targeted, demonstrating strong prosocial impulses and outstanding problem-solving capacities in wild pigs.” “The rescuer female demonstrated piloerection, a symptom of distress, suggesting a sympathetic emotional state matching or understanding victims, indicating an empathetic emotional state matching or understanding the victims.” This act of adopting your pen mates’ emotional states is known as “emotional contagion,” and it has been demonstrated to affect pigs as well, who become worried when they see another pig in distress.