Many people have this misconception that a true African safari experience cannot be complete without seeing the ‘BIG 5’. In my short time as a ranger, I have come across some guests so disappointed to not have seen a lion make a kill or a leopard just lazing around in a huge Jackal Berry tree, on a hot summer’s day. Maybe even an enormous elephant bull in musth waving his head from side to side, showing you who the real king of the bush is. All this stories sound awesome however a lot of disappointment could have been avoided by people just understanding that there is so much more to Africa then the ‘BIG 5’.
We have something that is known as the ‘small 5’ and what this consists of is a Elephant shrew, Rhino beetle, Red-billed buffalo weaver, Ant-lion larvae and the leopard tortoise. For some of you that read this I am sure that it’s the first time that you have ever heard about such ‘strange’ creatures in your life yet in some aspects these ‘strange’ creatures have some interesting facts that could just blow your hair back. For example, the Ant-lion is the larvae of an insect know as a Lacewing which superficially resembles dragonflies. These Ant-lions excavate a conical pit in the sand by crawling backwards in circles till it reaches a length of about 5cm across and 5cm deep with very steep walls. The Ant-lion now waits at the bottom, not to far underneath the pit that it has just constructed for crawling insects, such as ants to inadvertently fall into this pit which is virtually impossible to climb out of with the loose sand and steep walls. The Ant-lion then grabs its prey, pulls it underneath the sand and begins to siphon out all its body fluids, not the most pleasant way to go, with the dead dried up carcass then being discarded. These Ant-lions can stay in their larval stage for 2-3years.
The point that the small 5 brings about is that there are so many interesting, yet overlooked creatures that are found in this wonderful and exciting place call Africa. So next time you in Africa make sure you make a bit of time to take a look at the smaller things in this beautiful continent.
Story by: Calvin du Plessis -Kapama River Lodge Ranger