Small Animals of Africa – ‘The Small 5’
After successful marketing the Big 5 as a tourist attraction rather than a hunting expedition, the conservationist felt there was a need to recognize the small animals of Africa Savannah. These animals are small, less noticed but are as baffling as their big counterparts.
They also share part of the English name with their counterparts the Big 5 making it easier for one to distinguish them from other small creatures. This gives a chance for people who have already seen the big animals come back and search for the smaller ones.
The Small 5 species include; ant lion, leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, rhinoceros beetle and elephant shrew.
This is an insect that has no resemblance to the mighty king of the jungle. They are mainly found in arid and sandy areas. They normally trap their prey, mainly ants by building small sand funnel-shaped holes. Once the prey falls in, they are not able to come out and forms meals for the ant lion.
This is a large attractive tortoise with distinctive spots that resemble those of the leopard. They are mainly found in East and Southern Africa and just like other tortoises, they hide their head, legs and tail in the shell when they sense danger. They dwell in abandoned fox, jackal or aardvark holes. As a herbivore, it feeds on mixed grasses, succulents and thistles.
This is the easiest to spot among the small five as it is very sociable. It dwells well in dry Savannah and woodlands and prefers areas disturbed by human and livestock. It feeds on insect, seeds and fruits. They are known to build a huge, untidy and unstructured communal nest from twigs and coarse grass.
These are among the largest of beetles but are completely harmless to humans because they cannot bite or sting. They adorn two horns just like a rhino; one on the head and another pointing forward from the centre of the thorax. The horns are used for fighting other males during mating season as well as climbing and digging.
These beetles are common pets in parts of Asia due to their cleanliness, easy to maintain stature and safe to handle. The male beetle is also used for gambling fights since they have the tendency of fighting each other for the attention of the female.
Elephant shrew is also known as jumping shrew or sengis, they are insect-eating mammals found in arid lowlands, forests and Savannah grasslands. Their name come from the long nose that resembles the trunk of an elephant but their body resembles mice. They are seldom seen due to their shy nature and also their high speed of movement.
Other small animals to see while on safari
This is a small carnivoran belonging to the family of mongoose. They live in deserts and grasslands in the southern part of Africa. They can be located in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Namib Desert in Namibia, Southwest Angola and South Africa.
The meerkat lives in groups called ‘gangs’ or ‘mobs’ in burrows which they dig with their long, shallow claws. The burrows keep them safe from predators and the harsh African heat. They feed on insects like; beetles, caterpillar, scorpion, spiders, some reptiles, birds, eggs, fruits and plants.
The aardvark is found throughout Africa, South of the Sahara. It is an insectivore with a long pig-like snout which it uses to sniff out food. They feed in ants and termites which its digs out of their hills with its sharp claws and powerful legs. It also digs to create burrows to live in and rear its young ones.
This is a small insectivore’s mammal which is in the same family as a hyena. Unlike the carnivorous hyena, it feeds on insects and insect larvae. It can lap up as many as 250,000 termites in a single night using its long sticky tongue. It is a nocturnal shy animal hiding in burrows during the day and coming out at night to look for food.
This is a wild cat with spots like a leopard and stripes like a tiger characterized by a small head, large ears and a short black-tipped tail. They are widespread in Sub-Saharan countries of Africa. They are active both day and night though have minimal social interaction. They prey on rodents, birds, frogs, insects and reptiles. They use their senses of hearing to locate the prey.
Also, known as bushbaby is a small nocturnal primate. They have large eyes providing them with good vision, strong hind limbs, acute hearing and a long tail that helps them balance. Their diet includes insects, small animals, fruits and tree gums. They communicate by calling each other or by marking paths with their urine. While it is not advisable to keep them as pets just like other non-human primates, this usually happens.