What is the one thing most visitors to our country want to see in terms of their wildlife experience? You probably guessed it, the Big Five. But what are the Big Five?   Is it really that important, and how did this all originate, you are probably asking yourself?  Well, its origins stem way back to the days of hunting.  They were seen to be the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot specifically due to the nature of the beast as opposed to the actual physical size of the animal.  But in my opinion there is actually so much more to the bush and the safari experience and I often find the smaller creatures much more interesting and thus I wanted to introduce you to the Little Five. “What?”, you may be asking yourself.  Yes, the Little Five are unofficially named as such and have no relevance to hunting or danger but rather just a play on words.

These include:

1.   Red-billed buffalo weaver – A black bird with a red bill and white wing fleck who often builds its nest on the north western side of the tree to benefit from the late afternoon sun, keeping the nest warm.

2.   Rhinoceros beetle  – A remarkable beetle, similar to the famous dung beetle in basic appearance, however, it has a very distinctive horn on its head. I wonder if this horn is as sought after as a real rhinoceros horn?

3.   Ant lion – Also part of the insect world and a far cry from the king of beasts, but this small creature constructs a “v-shaped” trap to catch its prey, probably with better success than its lazy feline counterpart.

4.   Leopard tortoise – Nothing quite compares to the real thing in this department.  Stealth is a word associated with the spotted cat and somehow doesn’t go for a tortoise. It does however have a blotchy carapace but that’s where the comparison ends.

5.   Elephant shrew – This is the one of the Little Five which would probably scare most people more than the original pachyderm itself. It slightly resembles a mouse in appearance. There is nothing more delightful to see in the bush than shrews participating in what is termed “caravanning” where they link head to tail holding on with their long “trunk-like” snout in perfect single file, scurrying through the vegetation.

So next time you are on safari, try and see if you can spot the Little Five. Just keep an eye out to ensure you don’t stumble onto one of the Big Five in the process.

Article written by Mark Broodryk, Singita Guide, Sabi Sand Reserve.


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