Zippy had walked a long distance in the African savannah to reach a small lake. He eagerly quenched his thirst and went to rest under the cool shade of a baobab tree.
Zippy tried to fall asleep, but he felt uncomfortable and very itchy. For days, there had been tiny fleas all over his body. He tried to get rid of the fleas by swishing his tail from side to side. He tried to get rid of the fleas by thumping his four legs one by one on the ground. He even tried thumping all four legs at once! He rubbed his whole body against the tree trunk. He tried to get rid of some fleas by licking his face with his long tongue. But nothing seemed to work! The fleas just wouldn’t go away! No swishing or licking, and no rubbing and thumping, could make them leave him. Finally, he became so tired and irritated that he rolled on the ground with his feet up in the air.
He saw two little birds perched on a branch of the mighty baobab. They made a lot of noise, winked at each other and darted down. “Wow, that
was something. Are you O.K., Pick?” “Sure, Peck, I’m fine! Ehh- hi, I’m Pick!” “And I am Peck, hi!” With a sheepish smile, Zippy got to his feet. “Ahem, nice to meet you. I am Zippy.” “You have such deliciously tempting fleas on you!” Pick and Peck settled down on Zippy’s back. “Delicious?” groaned Zippy, “I am totally bugged by them! I just can’t get them off, no matter how hard I try.”
“We are very hungry, Zippy, and we love fleas. May we eat up all these… nasty creatures?” asked Pick and Peck. “Sure! Be my guests!” exclaimed
The birds began. They pecked at the fleas on his face and legs, they cleaned Zippy’s belly and cleaned Zippy’s back. The zebra stood still, letting the birds eat their fill. And finally, they were all happy.
The zebra had been freed of the annoying fleas and the two birds had enjoyed a splendid meal. “Thank you very much for pecking those nasty fleas off my body.” “Oh! We must thank you, for providing us with such a flea meal – free meal.” Animals helping each other – as Pick and Peck helped Zippy – is called symbiosis.