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Little Five Animals – 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 animals that roam Africa and attract millions of tourists each year.

But did you know that Africa is also home to the Little Five? 

Yes, the Little Five consists of five tiny creatures that, unlike the Big Five, are not game animals. They’re just fascinating, adorable, and worth looking out for on your next African safari.

The Little 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, let’s take a look at these adorable creatures!

The Elephant Shrew

The Elephant Shrew

Photo credit: Joey Makalintal

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 live throughout the African continent, except for western Africa and Sahara. Despite being widespread, their shy nature makes them quite hard to be spotted. However, you may have a good chance to get a glimpse of the elephant shrew in Botswana and Namibia.

Elephant shrews eat mainly insects and worms and use their elephant-like trunk to find their food. They love rocky areas where they can hide from the predators.

They’re a bit of a romantic, as they are monogamous and mate for life. Also, they’re incredibly cute, did we mention that?

The Buffalo Weaver

The Buffalo Weaver

Photo credit: Greg Tee

There are three species of buffalo weaver. All of them can be found throughout the African continent, and it prefers dry savanna. Some of the countries where you have a chance to spot them in are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa (only the red-billed buffalo weaver).

Their diet consists mainly of insects, and they 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 bird.

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

The Leopard Tortoise

Photo credit: Bernard Dupont

The leopard tortoise loves dry environments and feeding on grass and succulents. It lives in the savannas of Eastern and Southern Africa, being the most widely distributed tortoise in Southern Africa. You may get a good chance to spot them in Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia.

It is one of the largest tortoises in the world and can weigh up to 88 pounds (40 kg).

Fun fact: 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

The Antlion

Photo credit: Bernard Dupont

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!

They can survive for months at a time without food and can live for several years.

The antlion larvae resemble bedbugs, while the adult antlions are similar to mayflowers.

There are around 2,000 species of antlions that can be found all over the world. So there are plenty of chances of catching a glimpse of one during your wildlife safari!

The Rhino Beetle

The Rhino Beetle

There are around 300 species of rhino beetles, each of them wonderfully colored and beautifully shaped. Out of them, 60 species can be found in South Africa! Despite that, spotting them is quite tricky as the rhino beetles are only active at night.

The horn on the beetles is completely harmless to people, as is the beetle itself. The horn is, in fact, 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!


While on your next Big Five safari, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Little Five! They’re too cute to miss and make awesome photography subjects! 

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