Welcome to the jungle, animal lovers. Here is a dose of reality.
On Wednesday, The Daily Mail reported that photographer Evan Switzer had captured a moment of poignant grief in the animal kingdom out in Queensland, Australia: “I saw the male pick up the female, he looked like he was just trying to get her up and see what was wrong with her,” Switzer reportedly said. “He would lift her up and she wouldn’t stand she’d just fall to the ground, he’d nudge her, stand besides her … it was a pretty special thing, he was just mourning the loss of his mate.”
Because cute animals are cute and people are kind of sad all the time, lots of folks ran with the idea. It was a real tear-jerker! But it seems this delightful anthropomorphism may be misguided: Several experts say that the kangaroo pictured is actually trying to mate with the dead female – and it’s possible he even caused her fatal injuries.
— Daily Mail Australia (@DailyMailAU) January 13, 2016
— Daily Mail Australia (@DailyMailAU) January 14, 2016
Derek Spielman, a senior lecturer in veterinary pathology at the University of Sydney, told The Guardian that there’s “no doubt” that the male was trying to mate with the deceased female. The male kangaroo is taking on an aggressive, protective stance – but it’s almost certainly not due to sentimentality.
“Pursuit of these females by males can be persistent and very aggressive to the point where they can kill the female. That is not their intention but that unfortunately can be the result, so interpreting the male’s actions as being based on care for the welfare of the female or the joey is a gross misunderstanding, so much so that the male might have actually caused the death of the female,” Spielman told The Guardian.
In a blog post for the Australian Museum, principal research scientist Mark Eldridge pointed out that the male looks to be sexually aroused.
Read more: Washington Post