November 7, 2018

Africa’s Little Five: The True Heroes of the Bush

Africa’s Little Five: The True Heroes of the Bush

For most visitors to Africa, their ‘must see’ list is comprised of the celebrated and, suffice to say, famous Big Five: Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhino.

While we do agree that these are all incredible animals, we worry that during this acute search visitors may miss the excitement and beauty of Africa’s smaller wildlife.

We at Safari Footprints value the wealth of biodiversity Africa has to offer. So, we’d like to challenge you: instead of thinking big, think little.

Based on the ‘Small 5005’ concept explored by South African Wildlife Author and Scientist Rael Loon, which celebrates the small, forgotten inhabitants of Africa, the Little Five have become as exhilarating and rewarding as observing their Big Five brothers! So, without further ado, here they are…    

Introducing Africa’s Little Five!


Ant Lion

These amazing insects are known for their fierce predatory skills. Rather than buck, they prey on ants and other smaller insects. Ant Lions dig funnel shaped pits in which they lie, buried in wait for the tickling of ants falling into the pit. The Ant Lions pounce and suck on their victims with their sickle-shaped teeth. The remains are then tossed out of the pit and the Ant Lion settles in again – waiting for the next victim! Formidable, right?

Buffalo Weaver

These birds are incredibly sociable. They nest in open colonies and create a lot of noise. You are far more likely to hear them before you see them. They are given their name due to their attachment to the buffalo. They follow these bulky mammals and feed on insects on the buffalo’s body – hitching a ride as they do so. Cheeky buggers!

Rhinoceros Beetle

With horns similar to its larger namesake, the male Rhino Beetle is one of Africa’s largest beetles. The horns are used to fight other males, dig and impress the ladies, of course. Both males and females are horned, but only the males are known for their aggressive behaviour!

Leopard Tortoise

This tortoise derives its name from the leopard-like black and yellow markings on its shell. The Leopard Tortoise is perfectly camouflaged with this colouration due to its bushveld and savanna habitats. These impressive animals can weigh up to 23kg, with a shell diameter of almost 1m. Unsurprisingly, they are one of the largest tortoises in Africa.  

Elephant Shrew

The chances of seeing one of these small insectivore’s are incredibly rare. They derive their name from their long trunk-like and flexible noses. The Elephant Shrew only weighs 60g, with a length of 250mm – meaning they are 108,334 x smaller than the elephant. Much more of a challenge to find one of these, wouldn’t you agree? So, rather than visiting Africa with only the Big Five on your mind, why not come with a more open agenda. Anything you see on safari, whether it be as big as a house or as small as a mouse, is something to be treasured. We are amazingly blessed to be involved in Africa’s ecosystem. Next time you’re here, keep your eyes peeled for these little gems of Africa’s wildlife.

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