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Updated 8:47 AM EST, Fri, Mar 05, 2021

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Study: Crocodiles Love to Play, Too

Indonesia Crocodile-Guarded Prison

(Photo : Reuters/File Photo) Indonesian authorities are planning to build a prison guarded by crocodiles.

Even cold-blooded predators like crocodiles need to have fun during downtime.

Crocodiles are among the most frightening of creatures, but research suggests they enjoy surfing, playing with balls and giving piggybacks to their friends.

Professor Vladimir Dinets, a behavioral ecologist, said his observations of crocodiles at play should inform zoos of how to correctly care for these creatures. He found crocodiles are capable of forming playful relationships, not only with each other but with other species such as river otters and even humans.

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"A man who rescued a crocodile that had been shot became close friends with the animal. The croc would swim with his human friend, trying to startle him by suddenly pretending to attack him or by sneaking up on him from behind, and accept being hugged, and kissed on the snout," said Dinets.

The study found that crocodiles participate in all three foremost kinds of play noted by behavior specialists: play involving movement, play with items and social play.

Crocodiles were seen having fun with food, wooden balls, noisy ceramic pieces and debris floating in the water. Instances of play also include young crocs regularly sliding down slopes and adult crocodiles riding ocean waves.

Cases of social play in the study include baby crocodiles riding on other crocodiles' backs; playful instances of "courting" and a male crocodile giving his mate rides on his back.

Dinets also observed baby alligators riding on older friends' backs and a male crocodile carrying his lifetime mate the same way.

Crocodiles also engage in "locomotor" play, engaging in unnecessary movement for fun. Examples include young alligators repeatedly sliding down slopes and crocodiles surfing ocean waves.

Dinets' research supplies further proof play is a universal feature of "intelligent" animals - those with complicated, versatile behavior. This information might help ascertain how intellect evolves and what is required for its prpgress.

The research appeared in Animal Behaviour and Cognition.

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