In the infamous selfie bear attack video, an Indian man was mauled to death by an injured Sloth Bear after he tried to take a selfie with it. It was reported and it’s seen in the video that a stray dog rushed over in the middle of the tussle in what was described as an attempt to “help” the man being attacked.
There are a couple things wrong with the statement, first, it’s what’s called in the field (as well as others) anthropomorphic, that’s when you give human characteristics to something nonhuman in this case, animals. Humans tend to give titles to actions animals are doing while in reality, it’s instinct or just an action.
For example, I interned at a Zoo as part of my curriculum in college and I was helping out at a bear exhibit, I had to throw a bag full of trash we collected over a fence leading into a “behind the scenes” area with the bars leading into the bear exhibit behind me. I heard movement behind me, in what was an empty exhibit a few seconds ago, and turned as was face to face with a Grizzly Bear no more than eight or so feet away from me sitting watching me.
This was a first in a few “pants pie-making” moments in my two-year internship. Of course when I described the moment in class to my professor, I said the bear “snuck up behind me” in which I was corrected and had to analyze the entire event, Grizzlies have a great sense of smell, I had trash bags full of food scraps and bear scat, and I was a new face. In short, the bear out of curiosity came to inspect what the new guy was doing with those bags filled with leftovers and crap.
Now back to the dog in the video, first thing not many people know is that in India they have a problem with stray dogs, a really big problem. As of 2016, there were 1.3 billion people living in India and 30 million stray dogs. Because of this, it’s estimated that over 20,000 people in India die every year from rabies that they contracted by being attacked by stray dogs, actually the dogs are more feral than strays. It’s even said that feral dogs killed more people yearly than two terrorist attacks in the nation’s history combined!
Just two days ago six children between the ages of 6 to 12 were killed by a pack of feral dogs, these deaths are close to an event on May 2nd where two children were killed by a pack of feral dogs (note the bear attack in the video occurred a week ago).
Back to the bear video, the dog’s intentions are most likely one of two things. The dog may have felt threatened by the presence of the bear and possibly attacked it to scare it away. Then there’s the more disturbing reason, many feral/stray dogs are desperate for food (you see where this is going) there’s a strong likelihood that the dog’s intention was to scavenge a part of the man (if you have seen the video there appears to be a moment you may notice the man’s arm is not fully attached) for food.
This may also explain why packs of feral dogs are attacking children. They felt threatened or they view them as potential prey. Dogs that become feral and breed become more and more like their wild ancestors, ancient Wolves (closest current living cousins are the Grey Wolves) and the Dingo. As feral dogs continue to breed, the closer they get to losing domestication and prowl around Indian cities as if they really are “concrete jungles” which would lead to bigger problems later on.
I want to end this article on a more hopeful note, there are many organizations both in India and around the world dedicated to helping stray and feral street dogs and you can donate to them, I’ve found two organizations but like I said there are MANY groups out there. You can check out Animal Aid Unlimited and International Street Dog Foundation.