Aside from the role rhinos play in maintaining an ecosystem full of diverse plant-life, which I wrote about in “What Rhino Extinction Means for Local Ecosystems,” the presence of rhinos provides direct benefits to other animals. Here are some examples of this.
1. It’s common to find the oxpecker (“askari wa kifaru” or “the rhino’s guard” in Swahili) on the bodies of large herbivores. In this mutualistic relationship, the oxpecker enjoys a meal of ticks and other parasites off of a rhino, helping to prevent disease. According to Rhinos & the Oxpecker Bird by Martha Adams, this relationship isn’t entirely equal as it favors the oxpecker more. This is because oxpeckers favor larger ticks and parasites, ignoring the smaller ones and also because oxpeckers also reopen wounds to get blood meals. Hence, Adams concludes, “the rhino can survive without the [oxpecker], [and hence the rhino] is a facultative partner in this mutualistic relationship.” while the oxpecker is “the obligate partner, almost a parasite himself.”
2. Cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis), according to Adams, exhibit a different type of mutualistic relationship with rhinos called commensalism. This is a more equal relationship, as both parties benefit with neither taking more than giving. The cattle egret gets access to food and the rhino is warned when cattle egrets sound an alarm call and fly when a predator approaches. Here is footage of a cattle egret resting on an Indian rhino.
3. Months ago, Wildlife ACT obtained this groundbreaking video footage of a genet riding on a critically endangered black rhino in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa. The still photos are from 2014.
4. Although shaky, this footage captures an amazing moment when rhinos interrupt hyenas hunting a buffalo, saving the buffalo’s life. My favorite comment on this video comes from Bernard Hoffman who wrote, “Rhinos: ‘What’s going on here?!’ Hyenas: ‘Nothing happening, we’re just looking around for worms.'”