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Is the newest recruit in anti-poaching actually Rhino’s oldest friend?

A study has suggested that the red-billed Oxpecker, often found eating the bugs and insects from the backs of big game animals such as Rhino, Giraffe and Buffalo, actually alerts their host to approaching humans, long before the large mammal would realise alone.

Scientists speculate that the African bird has evolved this reaction to protect their food supply. While an adult Rhino has no natural predators in the wild, Giraffe and Buffalo certainly do. The Oxpecker’s now see humans as the same threat to a Rhino as they do a Lion to a Giraffe or Buffalo.

Dr. Johan – “Rhino and Oxpeckers benefit each other in nature, however the birds profit more. Oxpeckers often eat ticks and other parasites off the rhino, while sometimes opening up scabs and tissue, providing a blood meal to them. This is often a problem, resulting in wounds not healing, especially on the face after a poaching incident.” But alerting the Rhino to potential approaching humans may balance the relationship.

Study by Dr. Roan Plotz of Victoria University, Melbourne Australia

📸 credit Dr. Johan Marais.