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The Little Five

This term arose as a light hearted response to the Big Five and includes five animals that include the big five names as part of their name. It was also intended by nature conservationists to remind visitors to look for and enjoy all the animals of the savannah, even the smallest while they are on safari.


Elephant Shrew:

Even though the elephant shrew resembles a giant shrew, one that can weigh up to 500 g. and are actually more closely related to elephants than the true shrews. It is also known as the jumping shrews and belongs to an Order of animals that includes nearly 20 different species. They all eat insects, typically ants, and have a very long tounge just like the anteaters. Elephant shrews are very shy, some of them clear a series of pathways  through the undergrowth, which they patrol regularly. They are one of the fastest small mammals in the world and have been recorded reaching a speed of 28 km/h.

Rhinoceros Beetle:

This large group of beetles, which includes one species that is found over most of Northern Europe, are amongst the biggest and heaviest beetles of them all. Even though they look very menacing, they are all harmless herbivores.  The males use their horns in often lengthy wrestling matches, or perhaps more correctly, jousts, with rivals around good breeding sites to attract the favour of nearby females. Luckily these fights do not result is any harm to the combatants.  They spend the majority of their life, which can be a number of years long, as larvae hidden away under the bark of decaying trees.

Buffalo Weaver:

Buffalo weaver are members of the large weaver bird family, typical of Africa, they are the most easily seen member of the little five. They weave “closed” nests in the branches of trees, which helps protect eggs and young birds against predators.  There are three species of buffalo weavers, in East Africa the most commonly seen is the white-headed buffalo weaver, which weave individual nests in small colonies, while in southern Africa only the red-billed weaver can be found, which weaves huge communal nests with many breeding chambers. They are typically found in areas with many buffalo, hence their name.

Ant Lion:

The ant lion is an insect, and it is actually the larval stage of this animal that has given it its name. It is the larvae that mainly eats ants as well as other small ground dwelling insects. Antlions live underground at the bottom of crater shaped funnels that they excavate in the sand or dusty earth. Here they wait for their prey to walk into the trap and slowly make their way down the loose sides of the trap towards the bottom, where the ant lion lies hidden  and ready to strike with its long jaws. The jaws are hollow which allows them to literally suck their victims dry. The adult stage of the insect resembles a dragonfly.

Leopard Tortoise:

This tortoise gets its name because of the beautiful patterns that resemble the spotted coat of the leopard. The patterns are most beautiful on young individuals, while older individuals become more grey/brown in colour. It is Africa’s most common tortoise, and grow up to 70 cm in length and with a weight of around 50 kg, the world’s fourth largest species – the largest can be found on the Seychelles and Galapagos islands. Leopard tortoises are herbivores that thrive in even the driest parts of the continent. They can reach up to 100 years of age.

REMEMBER to enjoy all the beautiful animals you see on safari, and don’t just stress yourself by only searching for the big five (or the little five for that matter), for example there are also many species of monkey, giraffe, hippo, zebra, cheetah and a wealth of beautiful antelopes, not to mention the rich and varied birdlife of Africa which includes many species of large and colourful birds, topped off by the world’s largest bird, the ostrich. Then what about the crocodiles and monitor lizards?


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