A wild boar stands in the enclosure at a zoo in Brandenburg, Cottbus.
Soeren Stache/Getty Images
  • A wild boar can be seen freeing two piglets from a trap in images captured by researchers.
  • The female boar can be seen strategically targeting wooden logs that blocked the doors of the trap.
  • Scientists say it's the first recorded instance of rescue behaviour in wild boars.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

A wild boar carried out a daring mission to free two piglets from a trap, demonstrating high levels of intelligence and empathy, a new paper published in Scientific Reports shows.

The incident, which occurred in January 2020, was documented by a team of scientists from the Czech University of Life Sciences at the Voderadské Buciny National Nature Reserve.

The wild boar trap, which used corn as bait, had been set up to help researchers study prevention measures for African Swine Fever.

A camera captured images of two juvenile boars becoming entrapped together for two hours and 30 minutes.

A group of around eight wild boars eventually arrived at the site of the trap, led by one fully grown female boar.

In an attempt to free the trapped boars, the female boar charged at strategic points where wooden logs were blocking the doors of the trap.

The report said the female boar's mane was visibly erect, known as piloerection, which scientists said is an indication of distress.

Researchers said that it appeared that the other boars were attempting to help the female with the rescue operation.

Within six minutes of beginning the rescue attempt, the female boar released the first log blocking the front of the trap.

The entire rescue mission lasted about 29 minutes, after which point the trap was released and the boars freed.

Researchers suggested that judging by the animals' size and gender, the female boar could have been the juvenile boars' mother.

Scientists believe this is the first documented case of wild boar demonstrating rescue behaviour, which some consider a "complex form of empathy."

Rescue behaviour has only been observed in a small number of animals, including rats and ants, the report said.

Scientists said that documenting rescue behaviour in wild boars was not surprising, due to the animals' complex cognitive skills and social relationships.

In order for an act to be considered rescue behaviour it must meet four requirements.

The requirements include the victim being in distress, the rescuer putting themselves at risk, the actions of the rescuer being adequate to the victim's situation, and there is no immediate benefit or reward for the rescuer.

In this case, scientists said the female wild boar met all of the criteria.

Rescue behaviour differs from other forms of helping by its complex organisation, the report explained.

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