For so long, the Big Five – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard – have dominated the list of must-sees on a South African safari.
Now, there is a shift towards the importance of acknowledging the smaller animals, and in particular, five small animals called the ‘Little Five’. They’re not as popular as other non-Big Five animals, like giraffe, hippo, and whale, but they are just as important and there is a group of people wanting to bring the Little Five into the South African safari limelight.
Here’s the list of South Africa’s finest little creatures:
- The ant lion
The ant lion is an odd member of the bushveld, but one you’re quite likely to recognize. These creatures dig conical depressions in dry, soft sand and use these as a trap to catch ants.
Little Five – Ant Lion
- The buffalo weaver
Red-billed buffalo weavers are known to be social birds that build their nests in the forked branches of tall trees. They nest in open, noisy colonies and their nests are easily recognized by their messy construction.
Big five – Cape Buffalo
- The rhinoceros beetle
One of the largest beetles in Southern Africa, the rhino beetle has horns on its head that resemble a rhino’s. Both males and females are horned, but only the males are known to use their horns for aggressive behavior such as fighting rivals. Other uses for the horns include digging, climbing, and mating.
Big Five – Rhinocerous
- The leopard tortoise
Getting its name from the color of its shell, the leopard tortoise is one of the largest breeds of tortoise in Southern Africa. A mature leopard tortoise can weigh over 23 kilograms, with a shell circumference of up to one meter. Leopard tortoises live in savannah and grassland areas and like to be close to water.
Big Five – Leopard
- The elephant shrew
This tiny insectivore is named because of its long, trunk-like snout. The shrews are found all over South Africa in grasslands and rocky outcrops and only grow to a length of about 10 inches, with an average weight of 60 grams. Due to their speed and size, the chance of spotting one of these in the wild is slim, so seeing one before you see an actual elephant is something to be proud of!