14 September 2014 by Thandiswa Mancoba

Meet South Africa’s Little Five

Africa is home to a vast number of wild animals, with South Africa priding itself on its Big Five animals – but as impressive are the Little Five. Unlike the Big Five, these little creatures got the Little Five title from simply being small, and having names that contain the names of the Big Five animals.

The red-billed buffalo weaver is one of the Little Five in South Africa. Image courtesy of Ian White

These remarkable creatures might be small and sometimes a bit difficult to see, but they are magnificent in their own right. Here's more about them:

Buffalo weaver

Most likely to be found in the northern parts of South Africa, the red-billed buffalo weaver is the messiest nest-maker of all weavers. There are three species in the buffalo weaver family: the red-billed buffalo weaver, white-headed buffalo weaver and the white-billed buffalo weaver. Of the three, only the red-billed buffalo weaver occurs in South Africa.

Leopard tortoise

The leopard tortoise is the biggest among the Little Five animals. Made unique by the beautiful patterns on its shell, it can easily be found in most parts of South Africa. These creatures are herbivores and have been known to live for up to 100 years.

The leopard tortiose. Image courtesy of <a href= The leopard tortiose. Image courtesy of (Paolo)

The ant lion

Close up of an ant lion larvae. Image courtesy of <a href= Close up of an ant lion larvae. Image courtesy of Jonathan Numer

The ant lion might be the smallest member of the Little Five family, but it is the king among the ant species. The young ant lion larva lives most of its life underground, digging traps with its jaws to catch as many ants and termites as it can possibly eat. The ant lion larva eventually grows into a winged insect that eats pollen and nectar. 

Rhinoceros beetle

Although the rhinoceros beetle is the strongest Little Five member, it is also one of the smallest. Its strength is undeniably impressive for its size, but this small dynamo is not known to use its strength unless it is fighting for its life. There are over 300 species of rhino beetles, and like the rhino, each has a horn on its head that it uses to dig for food. Rhinoceros beetles are completely harmless to humans as they use their horns mainly for protection.

Male rhino beetle. Image courtesy of <a href= Male rhino beetle. Image courtesy of JonRichfield

Elephant shrew

Its small body and long nose easily make the elephant shrew the cutest of all the Little Five animals. They look a bit like rats or mice but you can tell them apart by their long, mobile snouts which are a bit like an elephant's trunk. There are quite a number of elephant shrew species, but they are found throughout South Africa. These insect-eating mammals differ in size; some elephant shrew species can grow up to 30cm in length. 

Cape elephant shrew. Image courtesy of <a href= Cape elephant shrew. Image courtesy of Jacques van Niekerk

The next time you go on safari in South Africa, see if you can spot one of the Little Five.

Related articles

Category: Wildlife

comments powered by Disqus