When I took my two-year-old daughter to the zoo last month, we saw a flock of Javan mynahs busily picking ticks off the white rhinos (or so I thought).
"It's a win-win situation where the much smaller animal picks out parasites and debris from the bigger animal; the bigger chap gets healthier while the smaller one gets a hearty meal," I said to my toddler.
But on closer inspection, we saw that the mynahs appeared to be pecking and feeding on open wounds on the rhinos. Oxpeckers, which eat parasites on large mammals in Africa, have been reported to drink the animals' blood, and I wonder if the mynahs here have learnt to do the same.
I hope studies can be done to see if the birds' habit negatively affects the health of the rhinos.
Andrew Wee Kien Han