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Humans apparently mistook kangaroo necrophilia for tenderness



The Daily Mail newspaper of Australia thought a photographer had captured a tender moment in the animal kingdom; a male kangaroo appearing to cradle, or even trying to revive, a female that was dying, limp on the ground, as her joey looked on.

Unfortunately, a wildlife expert told The Guardian Australia he had "no doubt" the male was, in fact, trying to mate with the dead female, and quite possibly killed her in the process.

The Guardian Australia quoted veterinary pathologist Derek Spielman, of the University of Sydney, as saying "competition between males to mate with females can be fierce ... It can also cause severe harassment and even physical abuse of the target female, particularly when she is unresponsive or tries to get away from amorous male.

"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 the human inclination to impose human-like emotions onto far-less emotionally complex animals -- "naive anthropomorphism," as he dubbed it, was likely behind the rush by the Daily Mail, and other news outlets who picked up the story, to assume empathy.