The Small Five Animals of Africa

May 2433, 2019

While these five animals are not necessarily shy, they’re often as hard to see, just because they’re mostly small. Each one has one of the esteemed Big 5 animals in its name.

  • Elephant shrew
  • Leopard tortoise
  • Ant lion
  • Rhino beetle
  • Buffalo weaver

Elephant shrew

Arguably the cutest of the little five, the elephant shrew looks like a small mouse but with a very long nose/trunk. Measuring just over 25 cm, including its tail, which is longer than its head and body, you’re very lucky indeed to see one of these in the wild.


They’re quick as lightning and agile, living in areas with rocky outcrops that provide crevices in which they can find shelter.

Leopard tortoise

The leopard tortoise’s name conjures up images of feline stalking. Despite this, there’s nothing of the sort done by these slow-moving reptiles. The leopard part of their name comes from the characteristic black-spots-on-yellow-background of their shells.

They’re gentle creatures and snack on plants. Occasionally they’ll nibble a bone to get some ever-essential calcium.

Ant lion

Like the leopard tortoise, with a name like ‘ant lion’ you’d kind of expect these insects to be large and fierce. They’re not large at all, but in their larval form can certainly be fierce. But only if you’re an ant: the larvae build characteristic little conical traps into which ants fall.

Adult ant lions, who have undergone metamorphosis, are often mistaken for dragonflies, with their translucent wings and narrow bodies. They mostly fly at night.

Rhino beetle

Rhino beetles are tough little guys and strong contenders for joining the ugly 5 list, too! They’re fierce-looking but are totally harmless to humans being neither biters nor stingers. In fact, they’re not even terribly efficient flyers, due to their size.

Bernard DUPONT

The only time that rhino beetles tend to fight is over the attention of female rhino beetles. Sounds familiar.

Buffalo weaver

There are two main kinds of buffalo weavers: red-billed and white-billed, distinguished from each other by, surprise(!), the colour of their bills. They are sociable creatures and colony-type nests are built which house numerous birds in separate ‘compartments’.

Derek Keats

Buffalo weavers dine on insects like grasshoppers and ants, so can often be found hunting their prey on the ground.