Genet on buffalo

All photos: Wildlife Act

Motion-activated wildlife camera traps are vital, non-invasive tools that allow conservationists to monitor the movements of animals that are rare, nocturnal or especially shy.

They're also unsurpassed at capturing some candid moments, as conservationists at Wildlife ACT learned earlier this month.

One of the organization's cameras set up in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa — one of the oldest game reserves on the continent — caught some unusual scenes involving a large-spotted genet, a cat-like animal, taking a joyride on the backs of some buffalo and rhinos.

Laser-eyed genet on buffalo

Often compared to cats, genets are agile, tree-dwelling carnivores that are most closely related to civets and mongooses. They are known to climb branches, but this is the first time zoologists have witnessed them getting a lift from other animals!

"I have personally never seen or heard of the following two species being seen together," Zoë Luhdo writes on Wildlife ACT's blog, "Never mind being caught doing what they did."

Genet climbing on rhino

So why has this clever genet taken up hitchhiking as a hobby? Dr. Simon Morgan, the director of Wildlife ACT, shares his speculations:

"We are not sure what is happening here. Looking at the photos you can see that in some the genet is literally going along for a ride, while in a few others the genet is near the head and could be picking ticks of the animals ears perhaps? It could be similar behaviour to cattle egrets which go for a ride and wait for the large animal to flush insects, so in this case the genet could be using this vantage point to spot small prey items being flushed by the buffalo or the rhino."

Baffling discovery aside, it's a pretty amusing tale!

Genet riding on rhino

Be sure to check out the parody Twitter account set up especially for the silly little genet (@GenetJackson).

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Cat-like critter fine-tunes the art of hitchhiking
Motion-activated wildlife camera traps are vital tools for conservation (and when they capture moments like this, they're funny too).