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Dynamic Animal Duos: Symbiotic Relationships in Africa


In terms of on-screen wildlife friendships, the bond between Timon and Pumbaa from Disney’s The Lion King is a basic. The wise-cracking meerkat and his loveable warthog sidekick go in every single place collectively, which is why—on my first journey to Kenya—I regarded for this twosome repeatedly throughout my first couple of safari outings. It wasn’t till we noticed a sounder of warthogs in Aberdare Nationwide Park that our information stuffed me in on a tough reality: Not solely do meerkats and warthogs not hang around collectively, however meerkats don’t even reside in Kenya. 

In international locations like Botswana and Namibia, the place they each reside, these animals don’t actually affiliate. Nonetheless, the thought of doable ‘dynamic duos’ amongst Africa’s fauna and flora kingdoms intrigued me, so I made a decision to research. Because it seems, symbiotic relationships—shut associations between two or extra forms of totally different organic species—are prevalent throughout the African continent, from ants and whistling thorn acacia timber to bats and the flowers of monumental baobabs. 

Though meerkats and warthogs may not pal round, the previous has a bond with drongos, small birds that assist warn meerkats of impending hazard with their loud calls. Warthogs have their very own symbiotic relationship with mongooses, cat-like carnivores that bear some similarities to meerkats (they’re a part of the identical household). Mongooses have a penchant for selecting ticks and different parasites from a warthog’s hair after which consuming them. Warthogs get clear, whereas mongooses dine in type. 

Not solely is that this a win-win state of affairs, but it surely’s additionally an instance of mutualism, one in every of three primary forms of symbiotic relationships on the African continent. 

Varieties of Symbiotic Relationships 

The three primary forms of symbiotic relationships are mutualism, commensalism and parasitism.

Mutualism is a relationship between two organisms that, because the identify suggests, is mutually helpful and a win-win for each. Then there’s commensalism, a kind of relationship wherein one social gathering advantages whereas the opposite doesn’t achieve something however isn’t harmed both. The third sort is parasitism, wherein one species advantages on the expense of one other, generally killing it however typically simply harming it. 

Symbiotic relationships are a necessary a part of nature. Not solely do they assist form biodiversity, however they’re additionally indicators of wholesome ecosystems. With out one species, one other may not survive. 

White-breasted cormorants on hippos

White-breasted cormorants hitch a journey on some hippos!

5 Symbiotic Relationships Throughout Africa 

They is probably not as iconic as Timon and Pumbaa, however these 5 symbiotic relationships inside Africa are the actual deal. Maintain an eye fixed out for them in your subsequent journey to the continent with Pure Habitat Adventures

Oxpeckers and Massive Mammals

In terms of mutualistic relationships, oxpeckers have the decide of the litter. These small birds are endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa and are simple to identify on the backs of a few of Africa’s largest wildlife, together with rhinos, zebras, buffaloes and hippos. You’ll see them feasting on ticks, fleas and different blood-sucking bugs, leaving the bigger mammals clear and content material whereas the oxpeckers take pleasure in breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The birds have specifically tailored toes in order that they will go about their enterprise with out having to relocate each time a number strikes. Much like drongos, additionally they sound an alarm name each time they sense hazard, alerting the bigger wildlife within the course of. 

oxpeckers climbing on rhino in africa

© Richard de Gouveia

Oxpeckers have symbiotic relationships with safari guides as nicely, although, on this case, it’s thought of commensal. Principally, safari guides preserve an eye fixed for oxpeckers as a approach to observe giant mammals, however the little avians don’t get something in return. 

A fantastic place to see oxpeckers working their magic is on Nat Hab’s Household Botswana Safari, which features a go to to the large Khwai Wildlife Reserve, the place the small birds feed in droves. 

> Study Extra: Rhinos & Conservation

Cattle Egrets and Buffalo

Shorter and squatter than their egret counterparts, cattle egrets are a daily sight amongst Africa’s grasslands. Search for them within the firm of hoofed mammals similar to elands and buffalo. Usually, they’ll be following behind, eating on the bugs that the ungulates fire up as they transfer. It’s a relationship that’s thought of commensal because the cattle egrets are getting one thing to eat whereas the bigger animals are merely going about their enterprise. 

Egrets and water buffalo

The connection between these two species could be mutually symbiotic as nicely. As an example, when a cattle egret hops onto the again of a hoofed mammal and begins looking its fur for ticks. The cattle egret fills its stomach whereas concurrently sparing an eland or buffalo from parasitic arachnids and any ailments they is perhaps carrying. 

The symbiotic relationship between cattle egrets and hoofed mammals is commonly on full show in Botswana’s Chobe Nationwide Park, a cease on Nat Hab’s Southern Africa Odyssey, navigating the waterways of Botswana, Namibia & Zimbabwe. 

Olive Baboons and Elephants

As the most important animals on Earth, elephants wouldn’t appear to want a lot safety. However in instances the place a watchful eye is critical, olive baboons have labored out a candy cope with these monumental land mammals. The dry season is the most effective time to identify this symbiotic relationship in motion. Whereas elephants are busy digging holes to search out underground springs for replenishment, olive baboons will climb timber to maintain a lookout for doable predators, most notably lions, an elephant’s main enemy. In alternate for his or her help, baboons get entry to the elephant’s watering holes. 

olive baboons and elephant

Though olive baboons are prevalent all through 25 sub-Saharan African international locations, this mutualistic relationship is seen primarily within the nation of Eritrea. 

> Study Extra: African Elephants & Conservation

Zebras & Wildebeest

East Africa’s Nice Migration is the most important mammal migration on the planet: greater than two million herd animals touring a steady clockwise routefrom Tanzania’s Serengeti to the Maasai Mara in Kenyalooking for lush inexperienced grasses, which develop through the moist season. Whereas antelopes and gazelle are a part of the wildlife making this 500-mile trek, it’s zebra and wildebeest that represent its largest numbers. 

Because the open plains they’re traversing enhance the vulnerability of each species, zebras and wildebeest notice there’s security in numbers. Touring collectively, they interact in mutualism to the intense. 

zebra in a herd of wildebeest Africa

Wildebeest are identified for his or her admirable sense of sound and scent, each of which they use to detect predators. The latter additionally helps them to take a look at water, which zebras can then make the most of. Zebras are nice navigators, utilizing their unbelievable reminiscence to retrace the route of earlier protected migrations whereas concurrently using their eager eyesight to scan the horizon for lions and hyenas—all of which turn out to be useful for the customarily erratic wildebeests. 

Zebras plow by means of tall grasslands like a lawnmower when eating, leaving wildebeest with the candy, quick grasses they like. 

Nat Hab’s Final East African Safari journey gives its individuals with a front-row seat to this unbelievable symbiotic spectacle.

Ostriches and Zebras

Though ostriches and zebras may seem to be an uncommon pairing, the 2 species truly complement one another—particularly in the case of defending each other towards predators similar to lions, hyenas and cheetahs.

Ostriches use their lengthy necks and very good eyesight (they’ve the most important eyes of any land mammal) to function lookouts, whereas zebras can rotate their ears in any course—so after they’re pricked up and pointing ahead, likelihood is there’s a predator close by. Zebras even have delicate style buds, permitting them to raised decide what meals are fit for human consumption for each events. 

ostriches zebras

Together with security in numbers, every of the 2 species advantages from the energy of the opposite. Each zebras and ostriches have extraordinarily highly effective kicks. Collectively, they make a formidable workforce. 

Search for this admirable duo on Nat Hab’s Wild Namibia Picture Safari.




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