The name 'Little Five' derives from its larger counterparts the 'Big Five'. The big five include the lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and rhino, which can be found in most countries in southern Africa. These animals originally became known as the big five game, or in short the big five, around the world for being the most difficult animals to hunt on foot in the late 1800's. Nowadays, they are one of the must sees during game viewing. The big five are also some of the most known and studied animals in the world, and are relatively easy to find compared to their smaller counterparts.
The name 'Little Five' was created by a South African author who noticed that the big five was getting a lot of attention and aid from around the world, leaving other animals behind. To get attention for the smaller animals he created a little five list, consisting of small animals that have a name like their larger counterparts. All members of the little five can be found in most of the parks in South Africa.
First up is the antlion. This small larvae type of insect is by far the smallest member of the club and lives throughout southern Africa.
The antlion creates circular funnel shaped sand traps, about three inches deep, to trap unsuspecting ants that slide in the pit. The antlion creates these traps in the exposed hot sand. In a later stage in their life the antlion turns into a type of flying insect, closely resembling a dragonfly.
Tip: They can best be found on south facing sandbanks.
The elephant shrew is a small hairy insect-eating mammal with a very long nose. Due to its particular appearance and its elongated snout, it is named after the elephant.
The elephant shrew is arguably the most difficult to find as they tend to hide in tiny holes underground during most parts of the day and only go out in search of food in the grasslands.
Tip: The best time to see them is during the late afternoon/early evening when they are in search of food.
When you think of the strongest animal in the world you probably would not think of an insect. Nonetheless, the rhino beetle is proportionally the strongest creature on the planet, being able to lift 850 times its own bodyweight. The rhino beetle gets its name from its exoskeleton armor that has a single large horn on the top of its head, resembling that of a rhinoceros. The beetle uses its impressive exterior to fight its rivals.
Tip: Rhino beetles like the tall grass, which makes them easy to spot from your car window.
Most commonly encountered is the buffalo weaver. This small bird is a specialist in building nests in a weaving fashion in the canopy of trees. The buffalo weaver uses dried grass to create large communal nests with other weavers. The buffalo weaver has made quite a name for itself over the back of others, quite literally. It tends to sit on the back of large grass eating mammals like the buffalo that graze on the grasslands. Smaller insects are startled by the buffalo and hop away which makes them easy prey for the buffalo weaver.
Tip: look for their communal nests in the trees or look on the back of larger animals like buffalos.
The leopard tortoise is the largest of the little five and can weigh up to forty kilo. This slow paced animal gets its name from the spots on its shell. The spots closely resemble the spots of a leopard. As the leopard tortoise hibernates during the South African winter, you usually only see this animal in the summer (October to April).
Tip: Tortoises are quite lazy; therefore always check the roads, as tortoises tend to use them to move around faster.
The small five offers a welcome change in scenery to your typical big five safaris as you tend to look more at the small animals and the bush veld. This creates a much better understanding of the bush and the wildlife that resides there.
The best places to spot all members of the little five are in the national parks; however they can also be found wandering around small towns, outskirts and rural areas. Your best bet on finding them all would be to pick up your car hire from Johannesburg and drive to the famous Kruger National Park. This park does not only host all members of the small five but also the big five. Another good bet would be to pick up your car in Port Elizabeth or Grahamstown and drive to the nearby Addo National Park. Famous for its large herds of elephants, this park has the big seven (the big five plus sharks and whales) and all members of the small five.
South Africa does not have any public buses, therefore a car hire is by far the best way to get around. Book your car hire with Auto Europe to get the best deal for your car hire in South Africa.