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In previous blogs we talked about the Big Five, in this one we want to introduce you to the small FIVE. The small five usually go unnoticed either because they are not known or because they are more difficult to see. 

Their name, as you can see throughout the blog, is related to that of the big five, either because of their behavior or their body structure. 

Now, let’s dive in

Elephant Shrew

This peculiar name comes from its long, pointed head resembling an elephant’s trunk.

With agile legs, it can make impressive jumps and move fast despite its small size.

Elephant shrews are found throughout southern Africa, inhabiting various habitats like dense forests, open plains, and scrub plains.

They are challenging to spot as they hide well.

Their life expectancy is short, around 2 to 4 years, and they are vulnerable to predators like snakes and birds.

They give birth four to five times a year, hiding their young for three to four weeks. In addition, they remain in their territory for another six weeks before producing more young.

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Leopard tortoise

The leopard tortoise, native to southern Africa, is one of the largest, reaching up to 40 cm in height and weighing around 13 kg.

Its name comes from dark patterns on its shell, resembling a leopard’s fur, though not all have this pattern.

These tortoises are mainly found in semi-arid, scrubland, and savannah areas.

Being herbivorous, they feed on grass, shrubs, and leaves, and can live up to 100 years.

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Buffalo weaver bird 

Only the red-billed buffalo weaver bird can be found in South Africa among several weaver species.

Their name has two explanations – “weaver” from their nest-weaving behavior, and “buffalo” from their stalking of buffaloes to feed on insects in their coats.

Buffalo weavers thrive in arid areas abundant with small grass seeds, insects, and fruits.

Predators of these birds include snakes, baboons, and large raptors.

Spotting them is easy due to their distinctive appearance and their proximity to buffalo.

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Lion ant

The lion ant is the smallest of the five ants. They inhabit sandy and arid areas of southern Africa.

It derives its name from its predatory nature. It burrows into the sand and creates a funnel-shaped sand trap and then waits for its prey to land in its trap, mainly other ants and small insects. 

One of their peculiarities is that they can live for months without food and they attract attention because of their particular body.

Rhinoceros beetle 

The rhinoceros beetle, with over 300 species worldwide (60 in Africa), is known for its body armor and horn-like structure on males.

These creatures are usually black, gray, or greenish in color.

Remarkably strong, they can lift up to 850 times their body weight.

Despite their ferocious appearance, they are harmless to humans and use their horns for territorial battles and food extraction from rotting tree trunks.

Spotting them can be tricky as they are nocturnal, but early mornings or late afternoons offer hope.

We are sure that on your safari you will now also notice these small animals that are so unknown to many. Although you may not be lucky enough to meet them all, you will discover others that are just as or even more wonderful than these.

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