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Africa’s Little Five

You’ve probably heard of the Big Five, right? That would be rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant – some of the most famous animals that you’ll find in African wildlife reserves. The term “Big Five” was coined by hunters to refer to the most dangerous animals in Africa to hunt on foot.

Safaris now are often marketed in terms of spotting the Big Five, and many people go on a safari holiday in Africa with the goal of ticking all five animals off their list. While it’s undoubtedly exciting to spot any of these animals, there are also many other creatures that make up the diverse ecosystems of Africa’s parks and reserves, but sometimes they are overlooked as people search for their more famous brethren.

To promote some of the less famous animals, people have come up with the term ‘Africa’s Little Five’ to refer to another somewhat related group of animals safari goers should have on their checklists.

Africa’s Little Five:

Buffalo weaver

Buffalo weaver birds are very common in east Africa and will be the easiest animal out of the Little Five to spot on your safari. is the easiest among the little five to find and observe. They are one of the largest weaver birds and make communal noisy nests where they make a lot of calls to one another.

Leopard tortoise

The biggest of the Little Five creatures, leopard tortoises have beautiful markings on their yellow-and-black shells, and are one of the largest breeds of tortoise in Africa, with a mature adult weighing more than 23 kilograms. These tortoises are found in the savannas and grasslands of eastern and southern Africa, from southern Sudan down to South Africa and up the west coast of Africa to Namibia and Angola.

Wild Leopard tortoise

Ant lion

The smallest and least attractive of the Little Five, the ant lion is an unusual looking creature – it is in fact the larval stage of a winged insect. Ant lions, which are found in sandy, dry areas throughout Africa, survive by digging sand traps to catch their prey of ants and termites.


Rhino beetle

Found throughout Africa, the rhinoceros beetle is one of the strongest animals on the planet: it’s the size of a thumb but it can lift 850 times its own body weight. These impressive looking beetles are adorned with rhino-like horns (hence the name) which they use to dig, climb and fight off rivals in the case of the males. Go on a guided walk on your safari trip and you’re likely to be able to tick rhino beetles off your Little Five list.

Elephant shrew

Undeniably cute, elephant shrews are small mammals with long noses that eats insects, fruit and seeds and is weirdly more related to elephants than to shrews. There are lots of them in Southern Africa and they live on the savannah grasslands and on rocky outcrops, but they are rarely spotted because they are extremely shy. In fact, you’re far more likely to see an elephant than an elephant shrew, so if you spot one of these sweet little creatures then that’s more of an achievement than seeing one of the big trunk-adorned pachyderms!

Want to go on a Little Five safari? Check out our range of budget overlanding African safaris for trips that will take you to the heart of Little Five territory.

About Sarah Duff

Documentary filmmaker/ travel writer/ photographer - www.sarahduff.com
Article by: Sarah Duff
on October 28, 2016
Filed under  Africa Blog 
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