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Little Five Game – A Look at Africa’s Smaller Creatures

by Cristina Costea

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We’ve all heard about the big five game: African leopard, rhinoceros, African lion, Cape buffalo and African elephant; they’re all majestic creatures that roam Africa and attract millions of tourists each year. But did you know that there is also something called the small five game? 

Yes, the small five consists of five tiny creatures that unlike the big five, are not actually game animals. They’re just adorable and worth seeing on your next African safari.

The small five may not be as visible as the big five, but they’re just as important to the ecosystem! The name of each these small creatures relates to its big five counterparts, so without further ado, here are the little five game animals!


The Elephant Shrew


little five game


The elephant shrew isn’t, as you might have guessed by the photo, related to the elephant, but it’s also completely unrelated to the shrew! They’re tiny and fast – they weigh a maximum of one pound (0.5 kg) and can reach speeds of up to 18 miles/h (29 km/h), which makes them one of the fastest mammals in the world.

They can be found in the southern part of Africa, pretty much in any type of habitat. Elephant shrews eat mainly insects and worms and use their elephant-like trunk to find their food. They’re a bit of a romantic, as they are monogamous and mate for life. Also, they’re incredibly cute, did we mention that? Be sure to catch them on a photography safari!


The Buffalo Weaver


little five game


The red-billed buffalo weaver is a bird that is native to Africa. It can be found throughout the African continent, and it prefers the dry savanna. Their diet consists of mainly insects, and they themselves are food for larger birds, such as eagles, hawks, as well as baboons and snakes. It breeds in colonies and one male can have up to three females in their nest chambers. If you love birds, the buffalo weaver is a must-see African birds. Want to catch a glimpse of the red-billed buffalo weaver and many more beautiful bird species? Why not go on a birdwatching safari?


The Leopard Tortoise


little five game

The leopard tortoise loves dry environments and feeding on grass and succulents. It is one of the largest tortoises in the world and can weigh up to 88 pounds (40 kg). Did you know that the leopard tortoise will reach sexual maturity between the ages of 12 and 15? It makes sense when you find out that they can live up to 80 years! The plastron (their underbelly) is flat in females and concave in males so that during mating season, the male can comfortably mount the female. Another interesting fact about the leopard tortoise is the fact that their sex is determined by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. If it’s between 87-93° F (31-34°C) the egg will produce a female tortoise and if it’s between 78-87° F (26-31°C), then the egg will be male.


The Antlion


little five game

Antlions are called that because the larvae devour ants, the same way a lion devours its prey. Even more so, they set little traps for the ants, which has made the insects quite popular since ancient times! The antlion larvae resemble bedbugs, while the adult antlions are similar to mayflowers. There are around 2,000 species of antlions, so there are plenty of chances of spotting one during your wildlife safari!


The Rhino Beetle


little five game

There are around 300 species of rhino beetles, each of them wonderfully colored and beautifully shaped. The horn on the beetles is completely harmless to people, as is the beetle itself. The horn is actually an indicator of the beetle’s health and general nutrition, which consists of fruit, wood and tree sap. Rhino beetles are exceptionally strong, being able to lift up to 700 times their own weight! And they can also fly!


*photo source - Wikipedia 

While on your next big five safari, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the little five as well! They’re too cute to miss and make awesome photography subjects! 

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