13 FEBRUARY 1909, Page 15


pro THE EDITOR OF TH1 "SPECTATOR."' SIR,—Does your reviewer of " Heroclotus " in your number of August 29th, 1908, also doubt the existence of " Trochilus," the crocodile bird ? If 1 have judged correctly that he is himself an unbeliever, I must tell him that this same story is to be found to-day among the natives of Nyasaland who live on the banks of the Shire River. In the course of several journeys to and fro, and up and down this river to the Zambesi, I myself have seen a small sandy-coloured bird of about the size of our water-wagtail in close attendance on crocodiles. I well remember the captain of one of the river-boats saying to me, as he pointed to one of these birds: " The natives say that those birds clean the crocodiles' mouths and give them warning when asleep of approaching danger." I think that my informant was one of the well-known characters of the old British Central Africa Protectorate, an ex-bo'sun of his Majesty's Navy, with no knowledge of the classics. Of course a crocodile "asleep on a sandbank with his jaws wide apart" is a very common sight on those rivers, and I venture to think Unit there are very few living who have entered to inquire the cause of this habit, and whether it is to cool themselves With the western breeze or for other purpOses.—I am, Sir, &13., ANOTHER RIFLEMAN IN AFRICA. •