“It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.” ❤️️
On a journey through the South African wilderness, Zaheer Ali came spotted a lone rhino munching on some grass.
Ali had his camera ready when he noticed a small oxpecker perched on the rhino’s head, but he didn’t see anything photo-worthy. But all would alter in a matter of minutes.
The red-billed bird is frequently seen hitchhiking on black rhinos’ backs and heads. Ticks and fly larvae feed on the rhino’s thick skin, allowing the birds to clear the enormous animal of unwelcome parasites. The rhinos provide a secure haven for the birds, as well as abundance of food, but their bond is deeper.
“Askari wa kifaru,” which means “the rhino’s guard” in Swahili, is the Swahili name for the red-billed oxpecker. According to a recent research, the birds, while being only 8 inches long, help to keep their larger friends safe.
The oxpeckers compensate for rhinos’ poor eyesight by warning them of danger, according to a study published in Current Biology. Scientists discovered that when oxpeckers notice humans coming, they emit a loud warning cry or hiss, alerting rhinos to increase their alertness.
Poachers target critically endangered species for their horn, which is utilized in traditional Chinese medicine.
When Ali glanced at the oxpecker and rhino couple that day, he observed something else. In a Zali Safari blog post, Ali wrote, “I watched as this small bird sharpened his beak on the rhino’s horn, and it was something I’d never seen before.” “I pulled out my camera and waited for the perfect opportunity to take the image as the bird rested on the rhino’s horn.”
The bird looked to be leaning in to cuddle the rhino, both creatures appearing to be entirely at ease and content in one other’s company. Ali had taken an image that perfectly symbolized the two unlikely friends’ symbiotic friendship by happenstance.