This is one of the more unusual and unexpected sightings of the year. Although I personally did not see it, I managed to chat to Dean Smithyman who did. I got him to give a brief synopsis of how he managed to capture these images seen below…
The mighty Mapogo had managed to kill a buffalo cow that had become trapped in the deep mud of a small wallow. As they fed over the following three days a group of hyenas started gathering. At one stage there were close on 15 hyena circling the aging lion kings. The scene unfolded on the open grasslands of Londolozi. Whilst Dean was watching the male lions feed, a solitary rhino bull started wandering over to the area. He wandered over in a very non-aggressive way, almost as if he was interested in what was happening.
The rhino bull approached a number of the sleeping hyenas. He got closer and closer until he was a mere meter away from a clan member. The hyena stood up and sniffed at the rhinos backside. This in itself was pretty unbelievable to watch. What happened next was even more bizarre. The rhino bull lifted his tail and backed into the hyenas actually trying to convince them, and then allowing them to lick his backside and genitalia! This did not simply happen once, but on a number of occasions.
Now I obviously have one or two theories about what the benefits to both animals may have been, but in reality I am really stumped about why a rhino (or any animal) would allow one of the most aggressive animals in Africa, the opportunity to be so close to it’s genitalia.
I would like to appeal to any of you to try give an explanation for this behaviour and to let us know if you have ever encountered something like this elsewhere.
Written by Adam Bannister
Photographed by Dean Smithyman