• Rhinos and oxpeckers have a give-and-take relationship: oxpeckers feed on the rhinos’ parasites as rhinos get some sort of protection from oxpeckers.
  • Zaheer Ali came across a rhino and an oxpecker sharing a warm hug in the South African bush.
  • His photos were able to capture that the two unlikely friends have deeper bond than just give-and-take.

In the South African bush, Zaheer Ali came across a lone rhino as he was driving around. The rhino was chewing on some grass, as a little oxpecker was on its head.

Oxpeckers are usually spotted hitchhiking on black rhinos’ backs and heads. The red-billed birds normally get rid of the large animals’ unwanted parasites as they feed on ticks and fly larvae on the rhino’s skin. Rhinos, in return, provide these birds with a safe place to live and plenty of food to eat.

Photo Credit: Dave Pusey /

More than the give-and-take relationship of rhinos and oxpeckers when it comes to ‘basic needs,’ the two have a deeper connection. Oxpeckers’ name in Swahili is “Askari wa kifaru,” which means “the rhino’s guard.” Based on a recent study, oxpeckers keep their huge friends safe, despite their tiny size of just eight inches long.

The red-billed birds usually serve as the rhinos’ alarm whenever there is danger — rhinos normally have poor eyesight which makes them susceptible. So, when the birds detect human presence, they make a sharp warning hiss and the rhinos would become more vigilant.

Photo Credit: Rudi Hulshof /

Oxpeckers’ role in the rhinos’ lives helps in preventing their extinction by protecting them against poachers who hunt rhinos to user their horns in making traditional Chinese medicine.

During his drive around the bush, Zaheer had his camera ready, but there was nothing photo-worthy — until he witnessed a wildlife sight worth beholding.

“I watched as this tiny bird sharpened his beak on the horn of the rhino and it was something I’d never seen before,” he said in a Zali Safari blog post. “I picked up my camera and waited for the right moment and took the shot as the bird lay on the horn of the rhino.”

Photo Credit: Zaheer Ali / The Dodo

The bird was seemingly leaning in to cuddle the rhino, in its own sweet little way. And it was obvious that the rhino was as well delighted, looking completely relaxed in the tiny bird’s presence.

Zaheer’s pictures totally captured the mutual friendship between the two unlikely animals. It couldn’t be denied that they are deeply connected, and you can see warmth and peace just surrounding them.

Via  The Dodo