The royal beast

In the Bombay Natural History Society Newsletter of April 1999, J C Daniel reports that the late raja of Kanika (a region that includes Bhitarakanika) had in his collection, a crocodile skull about a metre long. Daniel wrote the Raja had, in 1973, informed him the crocodile had been about 7.6 metres long. The reptile, whose dark skin had earned for it, the name Kalia, was a terror. But though Kalia was coveted by hunters, people in general tolerated it, and the beast lived for more than 50 years.

Another crocodile has an even more interesting record. In September 1989, I visited the amphibian and reptilian section of the British Museum of Natural History. Nicholas Arnold, the curator of the amphibian and reptilian section let me examine some old specimens. Of special interest was a black casket, which was kept under lock and key.

The note on the casket mentioned: "limb bone of fakir eaten by a crocodile".I opened the casket and found a human tibia-fibula and a note by one E O Wathen of 5th Lancer Muutra, North Western Province. The note dated April 19, 1897, noted, "When we arrived there, several crocodiles were going about and chaffingly we asked