Oxpeckers Might Be Helping Rhinos Avoid Poachers According to a New Study

The symbiotic relationship between red-billed oxpeckers and rhinos in Sub-Saharan Africa is well documented. Oxpeckers are usually found resting on rhino’s backs, helping the giant to get rid of various parasites while also feeding themselves in the process. However, the latest study found that there might be more to this intriguing relationship.

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[EN] In the whole world, there are only five species of rhinoceros. They live in Africa or Asia. These two in the image are black rhinos (Diceros bicornis). Did you know a female rhino is usually pregnant for two years? What a brave mom! 😊 Rhinos are one of the biggest, heaviest, and strongest creatures on Earth. 💪 That sounds scary, but no worries: they are herbivores, so they only eat plants. 🌿 Yet, these huge monsters can get aggressive with each other, using their horns to fight. Humans are their biggest threat because of intensive illegal hunting. 🔫💔 Oxpecker birds that live on the back of a rhino 🐦 eat its skin parasites and also sing loudly when they detect danger. 🎤 If a rhino gets scared, instead of running away like most animals do, they charge at whatever scare them. Even if it is just a harmless object… . [PT] No mundo inteiro, existem apenas cinco espécies de rinocerontes. Vivem em África ou na Ásia. Estes dois na imagem são rinocerontes negros (Diceros bicornis). Sabim que uma rinoceronte fêmea normalmente está grávida durante dois anos? Que mãe corajosa (e feliz dia da mãe para todos)! 😊 Os rinocerontes são uma das maiores, mais pesadas e mais fortes criaturas na Terra. 💪 Parece assustador, mas não se preocupem: eles são herbívoros, por isso só comem plantas. 🌿 No entanto, estes monstros gigantes podem ser agressivos uns com os outros, usando os cornos para lutar. Os humanos são a maior ameaça por causa da caça ilegal intensiva. 🔫💔 As aves búfagos que vivem nas costas de um rinoceronte 🐦 comem os parasitas da pele e também cantam alto quando detectam perigo. 🎤 Se um rinoceronte se assustar, em vez de fugir como a maior parte dos animais faz, eles atacam na direção do que os assustou. Mesmo que seja só um objeto inofensivo… . 📷 David Clode ✏️ Telefone Estragado . #telefoneestragado #nature #natureza #wildlife #ciencia #science #comunicacaociencia #sciencecommunication #sciencefacts #portugal #rhinoceros #rhinos #rhino #rinoceronte #diceros #africa #oxpeckers #búfagos #mammal #bird

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In his most recent paper, Roan Plotz, a researcher at Melbourne’s Victoria University, argues that oxpeckers are not only keeping the parasites away from rhinos, but are also acting as their alarms. Plotz’s research found that the birds are known to be warning rhinos when humans approach, which might help them against poachers.

Plotz spent significant time observing black rhinos in South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park for his doctoral thesis. During his observations, he found that the rhinos that he was able to inspect closer usually didn’t have oxpeckers on their back. Those that did would quickly run away.

After noticing this interesting behavior, Plotz concluded that oxpeckers are warning rhinos about the presence of humans. Unlike rhinos, oxpeckers have excellent eyesight and can quickly spot an intruder.

To test his theory, Plotz did several experiments and tests over the course of several years. The results were surprising.

The rhinos who had oxpeckers on their back were a lot harder to track, and even when Plotz managed to find them,  the animal showed signs of noticing a person is nearby. Also, the number of birds exponentially increased the animal’s awareness.

On the other hand, rhinos without oxpeckers were a lot easier to track, and they only noticed human presence around 23 percent of the time.

The final summary of the results is that oxpeckers help rhinos to stay low and are reducing the likelihood of seeing them by 50 percent.

According to Plotz, his results indicate that oxpeckers could play a significant role in the fight against poachers. Introducing more of these birds into areas with increased poaching activities would give rhinos a better chance of survival.

Poachers are guilty for the death of hundreds of rhinos each year, causing them to become critically endangered animals and face extinction.