On a continent blessed with an incredible wealth of biodiversity, it is often the large, charismatic wildlife species that get most of the attention. In Africa, this is the “Big Five” and people visit from all over the world to get a glimpse of these majestic beasts in their natural habitat.

However the African continent has so much more to offer when it comes to its animal attractions, and no shortage of ‘Top Five’ lists to group them in either. Aside from the Big Five, the next most popular list is made up by a handful of species unfortunate enough to be known as the “Ugly Five” – these are; the wildebeest, marabou stork, warthog, hyena and vulture.

One of the lesser known collectives is perhaps the most fascinating – The Little Five. A group of pint sized creatures named after their “Big Five” counterparts due to a shared behaviour or physical resemblance.

Next time you’re on safari in Southern Africa, be sure to keep an eye out for these incredible animals.

Here Are The Little Five Animals of Africa:


The smallest member of the little five, the Antlion, is predominantly found in dry, arid areas throughout Africa. They live the majority of their lives underground and are essentially a group of insects named for the predatory nature of the larva.

The Little Five Animals Of Africa
The Antlion

Antlions prey on – you guessed it – ants! Their hunting technique involves the digging of conical holes in the sand, and patiently waiting at the bottom until unsuspecting victims fall into their trap. Any strugglers are shot at with grains of sand to keep them sliding down to the bottom where they’re grabbed by the antlion.

Eventually the larva will build a cocoon and hatch as antlion lacewings, when the first rains appear.

Watch the video below to see these hunters in action.

Elephant Shrew

Named for its elephant-like appearance, the elephant shrew is a tiny insect eating mammal with an elongated snout.

Surprisingly they are not actually shrews, but more closely related to a group of mammals that includes elephants, dugongs and aardvarks, according to recent evidence.

The Little Five Animals Of Africa
The Elephant Shrew

These small, timid mammals are fully terrestrial and predominantly active during the day. Being a common food item for snakes and birds of prey means they have evolved to be extremely skittish and will quickly flee at any sign of danger. They do so by swiftly running along the vast network of paths they create within their ecosystem.

Preferring a sandy habitat, due to their burrowing nature, elephant shrews are most commonly found in semi-desert, shrubs and dry grassland.

Leopard Tortoise

The largest of the little five, the leopard tortoise is found across southern and east Africa, and was named after the attractive detailing on its shell – similar to those of the leopard. Its ability to adapt to captivity means that it is now a popular pet throughout South Africa and is often poached from the wild for sale in the pet trade.

The Leopard Tortoise

Their size generally varies dependant on geography, and an average adult leopard tortoise will range between 30-40cm and around 13kg. However older individuals have been recorded at more than 40kg.

Herbivorous in nature, leopard tortoises feed on grasses and succulents and are generally found in savannahs and woodlands. Thanks to their inability to escape, they face various threats of predation and have often been seen in the jaws of lions and hyenas. As a means of protection the tortoise has evolved the ability to fully withdraw its head and limbs inside its shell which is often times enough to cause a large predator to lose interest and move on.

Rhinoceros beetle

The second insect in the little five, and found on every continent other than Antarctica, the Rhinoceros beetle is one of Africa’s most widely recognised insects, thanks to their large protruding horns, similar to those of their namesake.

The Rhinoceros Beetle

Males are often seen using their horns to fight for territory, but this incredible adaptation also aids them in digging for food in the undergrowth or rotting wood. They have a varied diet including rotting fruit, bark, tree sap and vegetable matter.

Proportionally to their size, Rhino Beetles are among the strongest animals in the world with adults being able to lift objects 850 times their body weight, leading to them sometimes referred to as the Hercules beetle.

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver

The largest weaver species in southern Africa and perhaps the prettiest of the little five, red-billed buffalo weavers reach a height of 23 cm, and are renowned for being incredibly poor nest builders. The tend to prefer woodland areas and build colony nests which take up large portions of acacia and baobab trees.

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver colony

Very common in Kruger National Park, they are ground foragers and are often seen searching for seeds, fruit and insects, alongside other birds.

They are ground foragers, and can often be with seen searching for seeds, fruits and insects alongside other bird species.

Buffalo weavers are a polygynous species, meaning that males breed with more than one female at a time, and typically a male bird can have up to eight nest chambers with numerous mates living in each.