The Little 5 Animals of Africa

The Little 5 Animals of Africa

Most people have heard of the “Big Five” – a list of animals to look out for when on safari in Africa (the Big 5 are Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard, Lion and Rhino), but few people know that there is also a “Little Five”. These are small animals that are mostly overseen, as they need to be looked for. They are the Elephant Shrew, Ant Lion, Rhinoceros Beetle, Buffalo Weaver and Leopard Tortoise.

There are many animals in Africa, lots of which are so small, that they are often ignored or simply not seen. Once you start looking around, you will find that there are many interesting smaller animal species birds, and insects.

The best way to discover these less obvious animals, is a bush walk. This allows you to discover the smaller bugs and insects more closely and cross them off your list.

Elephant Shrew

This tiny insect eating mammal gets its name from its elongated trunk-like nose. Elephant shrews only grow to a length of between 10-30 cm and they weigh on average about 300-500 grams. Being food for snakes and birds of prey makes them extremely cautious so the chances of spotting them are slim! If you do manage to see an elephant shrew on your safari, you are indeed very lucky as this doesn’t often happen!

Buffalo Weaver

The red-billed buffalo weaver is a dark little bird with a bright red beak. They are known for their rather messy communal nests that appear to be just a mishmash of grasses and twigs – they are not very tidy builders!! They are very social birds and their calls and cackles make for a noisy gathering!

Rhino Beetle

These impressive little insects are said to be among the strongest creatures in the world in proportion to their body weight and are believed to be able to lift 850 times their own weight!  The name “rhino” comes from the large horns on the male beetles.

Leopard Tortoise

Leopard tortoises are the biggest of the little five and have beautiful leopard-like markings on their shells, hence their name. Adults tortoises are about 46 cm in length and can weigh up to about 18 kg.


The Antlion, also known as Lacewings, probably gets its name from the predatory behaviour of the larva,  which traps ants and other small insects in  pits dug into the ground. It lives most of its life underground and is actually the larvae stage of a winged insect that resembles a dragonfly.  Good luck spotting them!

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