Thursday, 2 February 2012

Africa's "Little Five"

Most travelers who have been on safari can name the "Big Five", but can you list their diminutive counterparts, the "Little Five"? Five species from the bird and insect world, with names the same as the ‘Big 5’ are known as the ‘Little Five. However the "Little Five" is just a fun idea not based on anything beyond the fact that there are five little animals found in Africa, with names corresponding to the "Big Five". The Little Five are: Rhinoceros Beetle, Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, and the Ant Lion. So when you are having your holiday in Africa, be sure to ask your safari guide to include the birds and insects, flora and fauna too. You will be amazed at how fascinating a small creature like a dung beetle can be!
The Little Five in Africa:
 1. The Leopard tortoise has markings on its carapace (shell) that resemble a leopard's blotching. With a lifespan of approximately 100 years, it is the largest tortoise species in South Africa and 4th largest in the world. It is also the only tortoise that can swim.
 2. The Ant-Lion, commonly called a "doodlebug", is the predatory larval stage of an insect that resembles a dragonfly. The larvae, which can live for 3 years, excavate pits in loose, sandy soil. Ants walking across the "trap" slide down the slippery slope, and while trying to escape, are bombarded by sand flicked upwards from the bottom of the incline by the awaiting ant-lion. The cunning predator uses its powerful jaws to drag its prey under the soil.
 3. The Rhino-beetle is part of the Scarab family and is so named for the rhino-like horn on its snout. This beetle is one of the great recyclers of the bushveld, and is proportionally one of the world's strongest creatures. It is able to carry 850 times its own weight!
 4. Red-billed buffalo weavers are small birds with black feathers and distinctive red bills. They are a little bigger than house sparrows. The species builds distinctive communal nests with multiple chambers. In South Africa these nests generally face north or northeast, making them good navigation tools on cloudy days
 5. Elephant shrews are not true shrews - they are more closely related to aardvarks. These tiny, diurnal, mainly insectivorous mammals, so named because of their long, mobile, trunk-like noses, are very active but are seldom seen. Both males and females are extremely territorial and when two of them come into contact, snarling and vicious fighting can take place.

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