You’ve heard of the Big 5, but did you know that South Africa also has a Little 5? While the ‘Big Five’ (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard) were given to the most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa, the little five do share part of the Big 5’s name and were named due to a shared behavior or a physical resemblance. The Little 5 animals are the Buffalo weaver, Leopard tortoise, Elephant shrew, Ant lion, and Rhino beetle.
The Red-billed Buffalo weaver is one of the largest weavers, at 23cm, and is by far one the easiest of the Little 5 to spot on your safari! They are omnivorous and feed on seeds, insects, and nectar on the ground. Their nests are easily recognizable as they build them communally in a large and messy mass of sticks usually in trees. You have likely seen their nests if you have travelled around South Africa!
The Leopard tortoise is the largest of the Little 5! It is one of the largest tortoises in Southern Africa and is the fourth largest tortoise in the world. They are aptly named Leopard tortoises, due to the beautiful yellow and black markings on their shell (much like a leopard). The Leopard tortoise generally rests in a sheltered place and become active when it rains.
The Elephant Shrew is by far the cutest member of the Little 5! They have snouts that resemble elephants’ trunks which are long, flexible, and used to find prey. They are quite wary of strangers and will scurry away to hide when alarmed. If you do manage to see an Elephant shrew on your safari, you are very lucky!
The Ant lion is the smallest member of the Little 5! Although they are difficult to spot, you will most likely come across one of their traps if you have been on a bush walk. If you see a funnel-shaped pit in the sand (about 3-5cm deep) with a small hole at the bottom, you are probably looking at an antlion trap. The ant lion’s larva burrows in the sand and ambushes their prey with these traps in the ground.
This member of the Little 5 is named after the horns on the male’s head resembling that of a rhinoceros. These small beetles are common throughout South Africa and are surprisingly strong for their size, lifting up to 850 times their body weight!
Going out on safari is the easiest way to spot both the Big and Little 5! Check these off your list when you book a safari experience at game reserves such as the Kruger National Park, Aquila Private Game Reserve, Botlierskop Game Reserve, and more!