National Geographic : 1957 Mar
@ National Geographic Society 391 Great Indian Rhinoceros Carries a Private Sentinel, the Sharp-eyed Cattle Egret Marco Polo mistook the rhino for the legendary unicorn and expressed disappointment at its "hideous" appear ance. Now the Indian species is nearly extinct, only a few hundred remaining. Cattle egrets serve the nearsighted rhinoceros as an early-warning system, taking flight before the brute recognizes danger on its own. In payment they glean ticks from the animal's skin and insects flushed underfoot. This feathered sentry, in nuptial plumage, allows an elephant and mahout to approach fairly close in Kaziranga Wild Life Sanctuary, Assam, India. A fresh coat of mud shows the old bull has just risen from his wallow.