With one of the Earth’s largest concentrations of wildlife, from lions and elephants to thousands of birds, Tanzania is sublime—roam the country’s lesser-known parks in the company of renowned wildlife photographer Lex Hes.
While much attention is rightly paid to Africa’s Big Five, we believe the continent’s smaller wildlife deserve their due, as well. Enter Africa’s Little Five. These tiny fellas often get overlooked—and not simply because of their minuscule size. Yet they play a vital role in maintaining the diverse and delicate African eco-system. So, let’s take a closer look these half pints.
This cute little guy looks like a rat crossed with an elephant. Native to at least six African countries, the elephant shrew averages around 5.5 inches in length; some reach almost twice that size. Look for them hopping about on their long legs, using their large snouts to sniff out insects across Southern Africa’s dry forests and savannas.
The three species of buffalo weavers—black, red-billed, and white-billed—are among the largest weaver birds, measuring between 8 and 10 inches. They also are the messiest, building large, communal nests with multiple entrances and often more than one to a tree. Quite social in nature, they can be found in small flocks, loudly cackling as they scour Africa’s dry regions for insects, seeds, and fruits.
This peewee may be the smallest of the Little Five, but he rules other ant species. Also known as pill bugs or doodlebugs, ant lions are found in sandy, arid areas, digging underground traps to catch even smaller brethren for food. Eventually the larva transforms into a winged insect, more diplomatically dining on nectar and pollen.
Heavy body armor and a wicked horn make this insect one fierce-looking dude. The male actually sports a dual-tipped horn that can be used as pinchers to dig for food or do battle with rivals. (Don’t worry, they are harmless to humans.) Rhino beetles, which can reach up to 6 inches in length, are among some of the strongest creatures on the planet when compared to their body weight.
The biggest of the Little Five is also one of the largest tortoises on land, measuring around two feet in length and weighing upwards of 70 pounds. Named for the distinctive markings on their shells, these handsome herbivores are found throughout southern and eastern African and can live up to 75 years in captivity.
Keep an eye out for these pint-sized creatures on a number of upcoming expeditions across the African continent:
Signature Botswana | May 15, 2018
Remote Tanzania | August 8, 2018
Southern Africa's Diversity: Namibia, Botswana & Zambia | February 14, 2018
Kenya & Tanzania Under the Canvas | June 18, 2018
Plains to Primates: Zambia & Rwanda | September 6, 2018