South Africa is well known for wonderful Big Five game viewing opportunities and Morukuru Family in the Madikwe certainly offers that. Less known is that South Africa is also home to the Little Five and with each member having a name connected to one of the Big Five. The Little Five is made up of the Elephant Shrew, Red Billed Buffalo Weaver, Antlion, Leopard Tortoise and the Rhino Beetle. Evan Vermeulen, Ranger at Morukuru Family, shares his knowledge of these small but mighty creatures and introduces us to some other small but fascinating animals.
I think Elephant Shrews are the cutest of Africa’s ‘Little 5’ and I really enjoy looking out for them. They are called Elephant Shrew because of their long noses looking like an elephant’s trunk. These small, insect-eating mammals are quite shy and not often spotted because they have great camouflage and are very fast! Like so much game viewing you need to have patience.
The Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver is the only Buffalo-Weaver species found in South Africa. This bird has a varied dietof insects, seed and fruit. And they especially enjoy crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, caterpillars,beetles, weevils, wasps, bees, ants, flies, and spiders. So there is plenty for them to nosh on here at Morukuru. Here’s a fast fact – Its diet also includes scorpions! They are really noisy , social birds – so you will hear them before you see them.
The Antlion is the smallest member of the Little Five and is famous for digging funnel-shaped holes in soft, dry sand which help it trap unsuspecting ants which fall into the holes. If we come across an Antlion hole out on a game drive, I enjoy showing guests how the Antlionion pounces on its prey.
The Leopard Tortoise is the biggest species of Africa’s Little Five and is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, in pretty dry areas of veld. They get their names from the unique gold-and-black markings, which roughly resemble the spots of a leopard. Leopard tortoises are usually solitary and are often spotted on quiet stretches of road – just another reason to drive carefully and keep your eyes peeled.
Photo: Evan Vermeulen
The Rhinoceros Beetle is one of the smallest members of the Little Five but packs a punch. In proportion to their body weight, rhino beetles are amongst the strongest creatures in the world. These funny-looking bugs belong to the scarab family and gettheir name from their body armour and the hooked horn on the the head of the male. They look pretty scary but they are completely harmless to humans.
The Big Five are the celebrities of the bush and everybody wants to see them. The Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Elephant put on a great show of majesty but real magic is revealed in the finer details. We persuaded Vermeulen to reveal the details of some of his favourite lesser-known sightings…watch this space for part 2 later on this week!