August 2021

Mother Nature is extremely wonderful

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Mother Nature is extremely wonderful

Today I want to share a brief information about dwarf mongooses, yellow-billed hornbills and their symbiosis Safer together: Relationship between dwarf mongooses and hornbills.

Dwarf mongooses are relatively small distinguishable predators hunting small creatures. Their Shangaan (local tribe around Greater Kruger Park) name is machiki-chorr referring to the call they make which is onomatopoeic. They reside within the warm, dry open woodland with adequate hiding places, e.g. termite mounds. These little creatures can be easily identified by their long and slender shaped body. They have an approximate weight of 300g, and have an
average body length of 40cm. They have a long pointed face and their ears are relatively small.

They have long curved claws on their front feet with which they use to dig for food. Their preferred diet involves termites, snails, scorpions and reptiles. It is to be noted that they feed on a large number of insects which is an important ecological role. They are perfectly adapted to find their prey with their keen senses of smell and hearing. They also have great vision which helps them spot predators, even predators in the air. However that alone might not be enough…

Hornbills are strikingly remarkable birds which, as their name implies, have a beak which is shaped as a horn. The focus here will be on the yellow-billed hornbills, which are some of the most common birds in Sabi Sands. They normally feed on insects and seeds, and they are normally found in savannahs and subtropical climates.

The mongooses and these hornbills are no strangers to each other, in
fact it is very common to see them together. They have similar needs in food
preference. This led them to have a mutualistic relationship. It was mentioned
above that though the mongooses have great eyesight it is still is not enough
to protect them and that is why they have a good relationship with these
hornbills.

The hornbills are a watchdog for the mongooses, and they feed on insects disturbed by the mongooses when foraging. They have a greater success if they live in a foraging group. In the process the hornbills will get food and if any predators come they will cause a loud screech, warning the mongooses to escape.

This relationship is a win for both species, as security for a meal, sounds like a fair trade.

Johan Ndlovu
By Johan Ndlovu
Field Guide