Yesterday evening I had an unusual sighting. Two Cheetah males were drinking at a waterhole and a Giraffe bull was feeding of a tree just above them on the dam wall. They were aware of one another but decided that the distance between them was enough for comfort.
In most encounters of these two species which I have observed previously they would not have deemed this distance enough and one or the other would have moved off.
Red-billed Oxpeckers and Cape Buffalo. usually live in a symbiotic relationship. The Buffalo provide the ticks filled with blood and the Oxpeckers rid the Buffalo of the annoying parasites.
But sometimes the small birds turn themselves into ‘vampires’. If the Buffalo (or any other large herbivore) has any bleeding injury (eg from a large thorn or from an abandoned predator attack) then the Oxpeckers often continue to peck at the open wound for a continuous blood stream.
They love feasting on the fresh blood without ‘tick packaging’ ! When eating ticks their target is actually the blood which the ticks had extracted from their host animal.
Having an experienced field guide with knowledge about Elephant behavior helps a lot when encountering these incredible creatures.
When meeting young bulls it is important to stand ones ground and not to reverse, as they see reversing as a challenge and want to sparr.
If meeting a cow with her young who is moving with lifted head and extended ears towards ones vehicle, it is a good idea to reverse slowly until the lady turns around and deems the distance to her young sufficient.
But if – as in this picture – an old bull strides towards ones car it is advisable to move to the side of the road out of his path. He will ignore the vehicle if he has enough space to pass. What an experience to have him that close! Learning to interpret the Elephants’ body language helps a lot to react properly.
PS: If a Bull is in musth = increased testosterone levels (indicated by his back legs being wet from dribbling urine) then it is best not to get close, give the him plenty of space and position the vehicle to have a easy escape route.