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Terrified Baby Hippo Runs Away From Tiny Birds

His mother hasn’t told him about the birds and the hippos yet.

Like how birds are actually good friends to the enormous animals, picking off ticks and other parasites.

So when a flock of birds descends on this baby hippo, he does what comes naturally.

He runs.

And runs.

The images, taken by wildlife photographer Mark Mol at Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, show a baby hippo seemingly under siege from a flock of birds. But the truth is, these birds, called oxpeckers, may be trying to do this hippo a favor.

“He was attempting to rid them off his back by twisting and shaking as he scrambled back to the safety of mom and the water,” Mold told the Mirror. “In time the baby will soon come to accept that these birds mean him no harm.”

While the term “oxpecker” may not sound very reassuring, these birds are frequently seen on the backs of cows, bison and even rhinos. It seems, aside from a baby hippo, most animals don’t mind a bird or two on their back. Or head.

Their methods, however, might seem a little disarming to hippos who aren’t quite wise to the ways of the world yet. Oxpeckers makes countless cuts in the skin to find their meal, a tasty parasite or two burrowed into their host’s flesh.

On the other hand, maybe the baby hippo is on to something. There is some doubt in the scientific community about whether the oxpeckers are truly a boon for big animals – and if the toll all that pecking takes is worth it in the first place.

At Scienceblogs, Zoologist Darren Naish writes that while oxpeckers do eat ticks, they don’t necessarily stop there.

The birds feast “on blood, ear wax, and on dead skin that they ‘scissor’ out of the fur,” he notes. “We also saw that, in cases, oxpeckers cause distress to their hosts, and that they apparently keep wounds open and can be a total menace.”

In the case of this baby hippo, however, the terror is all too real.

A shame this performance came too late for the casting of a certain Alfred Hitchcock classic.