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  • Tuesday, 09 January 2018
  • Category: Travel Blog
  • Linda Chivell

South Africa's Small Five animals make an excellent addition to your South African safari. The Small Five (also known as the Little Five), is sometimes quite elusive little critters, and seeing all of the Small Five on a safari is as much of an accomplishment as seeing the Big 5.

Elephant Shrew

Little 5 Elephant shrew

The cutest of the "Little 5", the elephant shrew is a small, insect-eating mammal with a long nose. Elephant shrews are only found in Africa, where they are but seldom seen. They can grow up to 30 cm and have relatively long legs which they use to hop about looking for food. They are so-called because of their rather long and flexible noses looking superficially similar to an elephant’s trunk. Females carry food in their cheek pouches when their young are weaned after around five days.Their little trunks are quite flexible and can be twisted to sniff out insects, which they then flick into their mouths using their tongues. They've been known to leap almost 3 feet in a single bound. Elephants shrews are not very social and often live in monogamous pairs. They mark their territory with a strong scent produced by a gland under the tail. They usually quite shy and not often seen as they’re well camouflaged and very speedy

Buffalo Weaver Bird

Little5 Buffalo weaver
The Buffalo-weaver bird can either refer to the common Black Buffalo Weaver or White-headed Buffalo Weaver. Both are found in dry areas and are very common especially in East Africa. Out of all the Weavers, the Buffalo-weaver is a messy nest-maker. Their large communal nests have several side-entrances and are usually made of sticks and thorns. They are among the largest of the weaver birds, measuring up to 24 cm. Their diet consists of small and medium grass seed, small insects, and small fruits. They are quite loud and social these birds, with a range of cackles and calls.

Rhino Beetle

Little 5 Rhino beetle

The Rhino beetle is a large insect with ferocious looking body armour. They belong to the scarab beetle family (Scarabaeidae). Rhino Beetles can grow up to 2.5 inches long. Both sexes have similar body armour, but only the males have a large horn (hence the name "Rhino") which they use in combat with other males. Rhino beetles also use their horns to dig for food inside rotting tree trunks, or undergrowth. They actually have quite a varied diet, they'll eat rotting fruits, bark, sap and vegetable matter. Rhino beetles are among the strongest living creatures in the world in proportion to their body weight. Rhino beetle larvae can take up to five years to mature into an adult. They can be found throughout Africa.

Leopard Tortoise

little 5 leopard tortoise

Leopard tortoises all have unique and beautiful markings on their shells, of which no two are identical, just like the human fingerprint hence their name. They are the third largest tortoise in the world and have been known to reach a shell of 28 inches long and a weight of 120 pounds (54 kgs).They can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in the drier, grassy areas of the continent. Leopard tortoises generally eat grasses, and this must suit them well because they live up to 100 years. They generally do not burrow except when building a nest for their eggs. Leopard tortoises can reach up to 18 inches in length and weigh up to 40 lbs. They are solitary animals.

Ant Lion

Little 5 antlion

The antlion is the smallest member of the "Little 5" club, The Antlion is the larvae stage of a winged insect that looks like a dragonfly. Antlions are well known for their tiny conically shaped sand traps that they dig in the ground to catch small ants, which they eat by basically sucking them dry. They then toss out the dry carcass and wait for their next victim. Not surprising then, they tend to live in sandy, arid areas throughout Africa. It digs a hole using its abdomen as a plough and its head as a shovel to flick the sand and gravel out of its hole. They will dig until only the finest, smoothest sand lines the walls of the hole, making the trap all the more deadly. Often times many antlions will live and hunt in a closed area, making a minefield for prey to cross. It is a bit of a mystery as to why they are called "antlions", maybe because of their predatory nature. Antlions feed primarily on ( surprise) ants, but can also trap and subdue many other small arthropods, like spiders, grasshoppers and termites

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