Welcome to the eighth edition of Shakati Bush Facts. In this edition, we will be looking at the little five. This is the first article of a 3 part series, which covers: the little five, the shy five and finally the ugly five.
South Africa have a rich biodiversity and one of the big attractions is the Big Five (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino). However, these animals are not the only attraction to the Bush, as there are many more interesting critters in the veld.
The Little five consist of Elephant Shrew, Buffalo Weaver, Leopard Tortoise, Antlion and Rhino Beetle. Each of these magnificent critters shares their name with one of the Big Five, and has similar trademarks. Thus, when you go on a game drive or stay at the lodge watch out for these remarkable critters.
Image Source: Widipedia
Elephant shrews get its name from a resemblance between their long noses and the trunk of an Elephant. The type of Elephant shrews, which occurs in the Shakati Region, is the Short-snouted elephant shrew (Elephantulus brachyrhynchus) and the Eastern rock elephant shrew (Elephantulus myurus). Elephant shrews are small (10cm-30cm), with scaly tails, elongated snouts, and rather long legs for their size, which are used to move in a hopping fashion like rabbits. They occur in arid lowlands, rocky outcrops and savannah grasslands. Elephant shrews mainly eat invertebrates, such as insects, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and earthworms.
Image Source: Widipedia
The buffalo weaver gets its name from its habit of following the African buffalo, and is most common of the little five. The type of Buffalo Weaver, which occurs in the Shakati Region, is the red-billed buffalo weaver. Buffalo weavers nest in open, loose colonies. The sociable birds create untidy nests and builds high in a tree in a fork of branches. It is a large, rather untidy structure of twigs and coarse grasses. The birds are sparrow-like in size and appearance, and have a body length of approximately 24 cm. The feathers of the male are dark chocolate brown in colour. The front wing edges and the wing tips are flecked with white. His bill is a shade of red. The eyes are brown and the feet are reddish brown. The diet of the red-billed buffalo weaver consists primarily of insects, seed and fruit.
Image Source: Widipedia
The Leopard Tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) gets its name from the colour (leopard spots like patterns) of its shell, which has black, and yellow spots, look like a leopard. The young have dark brown or black leopard patterns on their shells while adults have smaller spots. Their head, legs, and tail are brownish, yellow. The shell is shaped like an upside-down bowl, and is approximately 40cm long. Their habitat is a Savannah, which is grassland, with rivers. The Leopard Tortoise is the largest of the little five and is definitely the slowest of the little five.
Antlion or ant lion
Ant Lion (Myrmeleontidae) get its name to ants forming a large percentage of the prey of the insect, the suffix “lion” merely suggesting destroyer or hunter. And is the smallest member of the Little Five. The antlion larva digs its pits in dry, sunny spots sheltered from wind and rain, particularly on south-facing slopes. The soil must be light and easy to shift. Pushing itself backward, the larva first draws a circle on the ground. Then, digging deeper and deeper, it spirals in toward the centre. The dirt that is dug out is thrown out energetically with the head. It buries itself at the bottom so that only the head, with opened jaws, can be seen, and there it waits for its prey. Antlion larvae eventually pupate in the soil, becoming adult insects that look somewhat like dragonflies, except that they are more fragile and are weak fliers.
Rhino Beetle (Dynastinae or Rhinoceros Beetles are a subfamily of the scarab beetle family (Scarabaeidae) gets its name from its horn and male beetles use these horns for fighting rival males over feeding sites or females. Rhinoceros beetles also use their horns for digging, climbing and mating. The Rhino Beetle is among the largest beetles in South Africa. The Rhino Beetle species is the largest and most widely distributed and there are over 300 known species of rhino beetles across the world. Rhino Beetles are herbivorous as the adults feed on fruit, nectar, and sap, while the larvae eat decaying plant matter.
Which of the little five occurs at Shakati?
All of the little five can be spotted with great patience at Shakati Private Game Reserve. Just as a reminder these includes: Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver, Leopard Tortoise, Eastern rock elephant shrew or Short-snouted elephant shrew, Antlion and the Rhino Beetle
So the next time you are in the veld make sure that you take the time not only to spot the larger animals but to identify the smaller critters as well.
See you next time