It was a rainy day last summer in Zululand, when we got invited by our friend Chris Kelly to spend the night in his house at Zululand Rhino Reserve. As we arrived there, night was already falling and all I could think about was the small wildlife that would arise after that rain.
Not much was expected from me but to my surprise it turned out to be one of the best nights of my life, considering that I was still having my supper when suddenly all sorts of insects started to come, attracted to the light above me. I had to stop eating - not because they were bothering me, but because it was simply astonishing! Just to begin with, there was particularly a ridiculous amount of longhorn beetles (some were even mating on my plate), along with moths, mantids, arachnids, millipedes......I took so many pictures that I almost ran out of memory and went to bed with a smile on my face - what a wonderful night! But the best was yet to come. Around 6:00 am Chris woke me up to show me around. He had accidentally left the lights on and windows opened, and the entire place was covered with the coolest invertebrates! One of them made my heart skip a beat... for the first time in my life I got to meet this spectacular animal, the rhinoceros bot fly (Gyrostigma rhinocerontis).
I was still half asleep and refused to believe it was right in front of me, an elusive animal that most people won't get a chance to ever see unless living around rhinos; even then, the chances are quite slim. The rhinoceros bot fly is definitely the largest fly I've ever seen and the largest in Africa. It lays its eggs around the horn and face of the rhino. Once they hatch, the tiny maggots likely enter through the mouth and nasal cavity and feeds on the tissue of the rhinos gut. Their larvae develop specifically inside the rhinoceros' stomach ( black or white rhino) until they are mature enough to pass through the digestive tract and be excreted with the faeces to pupate. I have searched through rhino dung looking for pupating flies to no avail. It is very likely they burrow under the dung piles to pupate. Once emerged, these flies do not feed, so their lives are short and dedicated to finding a mate to start a new life cycle.
With the amount of rhinos being killed, species such as the rhinoceros bot fly, are also being decimated. Losing rhinos to extinction will cause the loss of so many linked species and the loss of biodiversity will be massive. Saving rhinos saves rhino bot flies and other cryptic creatures.