African Small Five

How much do you know about the African Small Five

african small five elephant shrew
Hluhluwe Tips for Identifying Birds
leopard tortoise
ant lion africa
threatened rhino beetle

Learn about the amazing and incredible African Small 5, herewith information, facts and some magnificent video clips depicting them all.

African Small Five facts

Elephant Shrew

African Small Five # 1

Names: Elephant Shrew or Jumping Shrews

Native to Africa,  insectivorous mammals

Strong resemblance to the Elephant nose and trunk

Diet: The Elephant Shrew feeds on small insects such as ants and termites

Breeding: A long gestation period for such a small mammal 8 weeks, the young can walk soon after birth. Females will give birth to 2 sets of twins (sep to mar). The young will become sexually mature within 5 to 6 weeks.

  • Measures: 260 mm
  • Weight: 60 grams

Eyes are distinct with a white Band

Up to 20 species of Elephant Shrew can be found varying in color and size.

Predators: Lizards, Snakes and birds of prey

The new borns will remain in their nests for a few days before venturing out.

Red- Billed Buffalo Weaver

African Small Five # 2

Red Billed Buffalo Weaver 1

Names: a species of bird in the Ploceidae family

Native to Africa

Natural Habitat: Dry Savannah

Diet: Primarily insects, seeds and fruit

Breeding: mostly in colonies a mass of thorny twigs (nest), the twigs are divided into separate compartments creating multiple egg chambers.

Male Red-billed buffalo weavers possess a pseudo-penis around 1.5 cm long. It was first reported in an 1831 German anatomist's report on the birds and subsequent research has shown that it is female selected. The pseudo-penis has no blood vessels and does not carry sperm but instead appears to be favored by the females for pleasure and aids males in attracting females; males in colonies have larger pseudo-penises than males which live alone, suggesting male-male competition has also favored the growth of this peculiar organ.(wiki)

Egg Laying: starts Sep and ends in Mar laying 2 to 4 eggs each and incubation lasts 14 days.

Leaving the nests between 20 to 23 days

  • Measures: 24 cm
  • Weight: 65 to 80 grams largest of all weavers

Differentiated by its bill from that of the white billed buffalo weaver

Female will take on more than a single mate (bigamous)


nest red billed buffalo weaver



leopard tortoise

Leopard Tortoise

African Small Five # 3

Name: Geochelone pardalis 

Leopard Tortoise Reptile the 4th largest specie of tortoise in the World

Native to Southern and Eastern parts of Africa

Natural Habitat: Coastal plains and semi-arid grasslands and scrub-lands, from sea level to a altitude of 10.000 feet

Diet: Herbivore  fruit, grass, succulent plants (occasionally consume bones for Calcium) see (Giraffe Chewing Bone)

Mating: Sep to Oct (Spring)

Males will push and bite one another for the opportunity to mate with a female. The female will lay 5 to 18 eggs in a hole in the ground hatching 8 to 18 months later. Leopard Tortoise do not show parental care to the young.

The gender of the young is based on Temperature ( same as Nile Crocodiles) 21 to 31 degrees Celsius and lower results in the development of Males. 31 to 34 degrees Celsius and above results in the development of Females.

Reaching sexual maturity after 12 to 15 years

Can survive between 80 to 100 years in the wild

  • Measures: 16 to 28 inches in length
  • Weight: 40 to 120 pounds

The shell is called a carapace (upper part of shell)

The base of the shell is called the (plastron) the shape will differ between sexes the male has a concave plastron while the female has a flat plastron for mating reasons.

The individual panels or scales are called (scutes). Scutes grow according to season's and therefore one can determine the age by counting the ridges.

The Leopard Tortoise is the only tortoise that can raise it's head as it has no nuchal shield (protective scute above the neck).

  • Never pick one up during winter as it will eject it's stored urine and water as a deterrent. The Tortoise will store water during the dry winter months and is used for hydration and also to moisten the warmer ground making it easier to dig a hole for the nest to lay eggs.



ant lion africa

Ant Lion

African Small Five # 4

Name:  family of Myrmeleontidae

Native: Worldwide Distribution

Known for the fiercely predatory habits of their larvae which dig pits to trap ants or other prey. The adults insects are less known and commonly referred to as dragon flies but are antlion lacewings

Diet: predominantly Ants

antlion lacewings

  • Measures: 1.5 cm fully grown Larvae, Adults 4 cm with wingspan of 8 cm

Adults lay eggs on plants and in the soil, the Antlion Larvae will create a hole and small walking insect mostly ants that enter the hole of a Antlion Larvae is shot at with grains of sand to keep it sliding towards the bottom of the hole. This is where it is grabbed by the ant lion larva. The prey is often pulled underground to have its juices sucked out through sharp, hypodermic pincers.


Rhinoceros Beetle

African Small Five # 5

african small five

Strongest animal on the Planet proportionally and can carry 850 times it own weight. While a Elephant can only carry 25% of its own weight.

Name:  belongs to the subfamily (Dynastinae) and is part of the family of scarab beetles (Scarabaeidae)

Native: Not completely known

Harmless to humans as they do not bite or sting. The horns are used for fighting (males during mating) and for digging. The horn size will determine the physical health of the beetle. The body of the beetle is covered in a thick exoskeleton in adults beetles. A pair of thick wings lie atop another set of membranous wings underneath, allowing the rhinoceros beetle to fly, although not very efficiently, owing to its large size. They are nocturnal and a adult male can live upto 2 to 3 years while the female rarely live long after mating.

Larval stages may continue for several years (3 to 5 years), the female lays on average 50 eggs these larvae eat large amounts of rotting wood while the adults do not eat large amounts contradictory to their size.

Adult Diet: nectar, fruit and plant sap


  • Measures: 6 cm
  • Weight: 30 to 40 grams
  • Predators: Snakes and Birds

When disturbed, rhino beetles produce hissing squeaks. They aren't vocal noises though. Instead, they’re produced when the beetle rubs their abdomen and wing covers together.

They are threatened by the trade in exotic insects, and deforestation contributes to their increasing rarity.


threatened rhino beetle

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