Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/443

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435
THE CROCODILE.

water-hens vie with the duck tribe in numbers and gaudiness of plumage. During a hurried journey up the Teoge, I procured, in a short time, herons of upward of ten distinct species, besides several different kinds of storks, cranes, &c.

The Lake and its rivers swarm with crocodiles. During the cold time of the year they resort to deep water, where they remain in a state of comparative inactivity; but on the approach of the hot season they again come forward, and may be seen lying in great numbers along the banks, basking in the noonday sun, and looking exactly like so many logs of wood. I have often surprised them in this position; and, if not too close, they have invariably feigned to be asleep. The instant, however, that I have raised my gun, or even merely pointed toward them, they have plunged into the deep like a shot.

They are said occasionally to attain a gigantic size, but no authenticated instance has come to my knowledge of any specimen being killed which measured above fifteen or sixteen feet, though I have heard it asserted that they sometimes reach double that length.

The crocodile chiefly lives on quadrupeds, which he lies in wait for, and destroys when coming to drink; but he is said never to devour his prey before the flesh has arrived at a state of putrefaction.

When in its native element, the power of this animal must be enormous; for if the testimony of the inhabitants is to be relied on, he not unfrequently succeeds in destroying the buffalo, which they say he accomplishes by seizing the beast by the muzzle and dragging him into deep water, where he suffocates him. This being done, he hauls his victim back to the shore, and, pushing the carcass above water-mark, watches over it until it has become nicely tainted, when he commences his feast.

From the moist and swampy nature of the ground about the Lake and the rivers, snakes, as may well be supposed, are