The Little Five
Small But Mighty
If you’ve ever visited Southern Africa, no doubt seeing the Big 5 has been on your bucket list. This famous Big 5 includes elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. In contrast, the lesser known ‘Little 5’ include the antlion, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, buffalo weaver and rhino beetle.
These small creatures are as impressive as their larger counterparts and can often be more challenging to find than the Big 5 on your African safari adventure. Take a closer look at the curious ‘Little 5’ that you might spot during your time at Melozhori – from smallest to biggest.
A remarkable ambush predator, the antlion is the smallest of the Little Five and one that you might easily miss from a seat in a game-viewing vehicle. As larvae, these ingenious insects dig pits to trap passing ants or other prey. They most commonly occur in dry and sandy habitats where they can easily excavate their lair.
When antlions reach their full size, they pupate and undergo metamorphosis. Adult antlions have two pairs of long slender wings and are often mistaken for dragonflies or damselflies.
The rarest member of the ‘Little 5’, Rhino Beetles are a subspecies of the scarab beetle family which grow very large. Although fierce-looking, they are completely harmless to humans. Aptly named for the characteristic horns borne by the males of the species, they are identifiable by two distinct horns – one on the head and another on the centre of the thorax.
Rhino beetles use their horns for fighting other males during mating season, and for digging up animal dung. Horn size can most often be a good indicator of the nutrition and physical health of individuals. Being nocturnal, you are most likely to spot rhino beetles at night. Despite their size, they can fly and can reportedly lift up to 800 times their body weight.
Maybe the most common of the ‘Little 5’ to find in the wild, the Buffalo Weaver is a dark brown, almost black bird with a distinctive red bill. It is found in habitats across eastern and southern Africa mostly in areas of dry savanna.
Their enormous nests of thorny twigs make Buffalo Weavers easily identifiable. These twig lodgings are divided into separate chambers, each protecting multiple eggs.
Elephant shrews (also called jumping shrews or sengis) are small insect-eating mammals native to Africa. Their common name the “elephant shrew” comes from the resemblance between their long noses and an elephant’s trunk.
Elephant shrews are widely distributed across the southern part of Africa and you might be surprised to know they are one of the fastest small mammals in the world, having been recorded to reach speeds of 28.8 kilometres per hour!
The fourth largest species of tortoise in the world, leopard tortoise adults can grow up to 40 centimetres long and weigh up to 13 kilograms. They tend to prefer savanna regions of eastern and southern Africa – making Melozhori the perfect habitat to find them in.
Juveniles have attractive markings with black spots and stripes on a yellow-ochre background. The markings tend to fade as leopard tortoises mature to a nondescript brown or grey.
About Melozhori Private Game Reserve
Melozhori Private Game Reserve is conveniently located less than two hours from Cape Town at the start of the Garden Route. The reserve offers an exquisite natural wilderness to be explored from a selection of accommodation options to suit solo travellers, couples, families and groups alike.
Being completely predator-free, Melozhori can be explored on foot or from the comfort of a guided game drive, making it completely safe for families travelling with small children. Our intentionally low guest capacity means a personal and authentic safari experience is guaranteed.