A Different Model of Safari Vehicle

Written by Thomson Safaris

oxpecker bird on african buffalo snout

Oxpeckers piggybacking on an African buffalo
Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus)” by Flickr user Ian White licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

We’re not the only ones who occasionally like to kick back and take in the view from a lounging position; animals, too, love hitching a ride…often on one another!

Conservation group Wildlife Act recently captured images of a genet—a small, cat-like carnivore—riding atop not one, but two larger animals: a rhinoceros and an African Buffalo (apparently it likes multiple vehicle options).

It’s not clear why the genet decided to hitch a ride—“protection from predators” seems unlikely, since none are visible in the images—but it is clear that a taste of luxury has proven enticing. Because of distinctive coat patterning, the researchers were able to determine that the same genet was riding around on the backs of other animals on multiple different nights. Because camera traps are relatively uncommon, and because genets are primarily nocturnal, and therefore less well-observed than diurnal species, it’s not known whether the behavior is common to the species, or just one animal’s ingenious plot to kick back and enjoy the ride.

We do know that the genet has struck a chord with wildlife lovers; “Genet Jackson,” as the researchers have named it, is now on twitter!

That’s not the only animal who loves a life of leisure, though.

Oxpeckers are perennial lovers of the wildlife transit system, perching atop rhinos, zebras, or wildebeest and going along for the ride. Their rides are extra comfortable—they include an in-transit meal (oxpeckers mainly dine on ticks and other small pests that are themselves hitching rides on larger animals).

symbiosis oxpecker bird and zebra

Egrets, likewise, love a leisurely ride on a large grazer (whichever is around; they’re not picky). Like oxpeckers, they’ll grab a quick lunch en route when it suits them.

Then there are accidental animal-riders. Like the young crocodile whose rock turned out to be a very large, very living hippo. Or the zoo-bound hyrax who decided to spice up its day by piggybacking on a tortoise.

(This guy isn’t alone; bushbabies, lizards, and even other tortoises have been known to take the slow train from time to time!)

Have you spotted any safari animals hitching a ride on one another?