The saga of animals riding on other animals continues.
This time, it’s a genet—a relative of a mongoose—atop a rare black rhinoceros as it moves through the South African bush.
Volunteers with Wildlife ACT and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, organizations promoting species conservation in Africa, captured the highly unusual nighttime interaction with a camera trap and published the footage on YouTube last week. (Also see "Weasel Rides Woodpecker in Viral Photo—But Is It Real?")
This isn’t the first time we've seen a hitchhiking-genet: In 2014, the same team photographed the spotted carnivore riding on a white rhino and two Cape buffaloes. The unheard-of relationship spawned "Genet Jackson," the rhino-wrangling genet with its own Twitter account.
Craig Sholley, wildlife biologist and vice president of the African Wildlife Foundation, says genets likely jump on big herbivores to search for food.
For one, the genet eats insects that the rhino stirs up from the grass, the same technique cattle egrets use on grazing mammals. Sholley says it's also possible the nocturnal genet was searching for ticks that latch onto rhinos and buffaloes.
The rhino also offers the nocturnal, tree-dwelling animal a vantage point from which to scan for their prey, which includes anything from a dung beetle to a baby antelope.
Perching on a large, slow-moving animal could be a great hunting technique—until that animal-turned-lookout gets fed up. (Watch a genet go fishing.)
The rhino in the video suddenly thrashes and sprints away while the genet squeals and tries to stay on, rodeo style. "It looked to me that the rhino had enough," Sholley says.
As long as the genet can take advantage of its massive neighbors, however, it will keep on riding.
"It’s novel, but nothing in the world of nature surprises me anymore," Sholley says.
"That’s why I keep going back to Africa."
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