A group of ᴍɪsᴄʜɪᴇᴠᴏᴜs birds enjoyed an easy meal on the back of an unsuspecting hippopotamus, as ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇᴅ in incredible images.
At Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, the hippo was seen walking about with the oxpeckers on his back.
Marc Mol, a 58-year-old Australian wildlife photographer, recorded the scene while photographing the grazing hippos from an open-top automobile.
He said “Oxpeckers are ʀᴀʀᴇly noticed, yet they are interesting to observe. I saw them interact with their host hippos and with each other for a couple of hours.”
He said that the birds and hippos have a mutually beneficial connection, with the oxpeckers ᴇᴀᴛing on ticks and other parasites to help the hippos get rid of them.
They hop from one host to the next, cleansing exposed skin and ᴡᴏᴜɴᴅs and ᴇᴀᴛing ticks and other parasites. When a hippo turns over in the water, the parasites that had previously been hidden travel quickly to the freshly exposed skin. They frequently cluster in great numbers in this manner. It was the middle of the day by this stage, so many of the birds were ‘gaping’ to cool ᴅᴏᴡɴ, giving the impression of a choir singing!
Oxpeckers, for example, ᴇᴀᴛ only large ᴍᴀᴍᴍᴀʟs that house ticks, such as hippos, impala, and cattle.
‘The photographs show a deposed hippo bull feeding on the riverbank in the afternoon,’ said Mr Mol, who now lives in Switzerland.
“I particularly like the image capturing the head on view beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ one gets to see just how massive these “river horses” are out of the water.”
He was giving us a confrontational pose here and at one point I actually wondered if he was going to ᴄʜᴀʀɢᴇ our vehicle.
These massive crᴇᴀᴛures are so dependent on water that their skin can ᴅʀy out very quickly being out and exposed to the hᴇᴀᴛ of the day.