Author: Hanna Swanepoel The big five are well-known worldwide, but what about their smaller counterparts? These five smaller animals share their names with the Big Five: Lion, Buffalo, Rhino, Leopard, and Elephant. Conservationists introduced the term to make people aware of the smaller things and creatures in nature.
Ant lion
Ant lions or Lacewings are insects with wingspans up to 8cm. The larvae are 1.5 cm long or less and found in funnels on sandy areas/sand surfaces, especially under trees. Fierce like a lion, lying deep at the bottom of the funnel trap, predator larvae, or Doodlebug, waits for ants and smaller victims to fall into their trap and grabs them with very powerful jaws.

Adults look similar to dragonflies but have much thinner and narrower bodies.
Buffalo weaver
Red-billed Buffalo weavers are the largest weavers in South Africa. The name derives from following buffalo herds. They are often seen sitting on top of a buffalo, feasting on fruit, seeds, insects, and tics. Famous for building massive communal nests, built by males and leaving them for future residents, these nests are assembled from course grasses. They are often seen untidy on lamp poles, Baobab, and other trees, usually on the north or northeast side of the tree.

Rhino beetle
Belongs to the Scarab family (includes dung beetles which are the strongest). Rhino beetles (especially males) are the second strongest insect.

Some species grow as large as 15 cm and can carry 850 times their weight. Male beetles have protrusions on their head and bodies that look like the body armour of the Rhino horn. The rest of the body armour is a protective hard shell- hence the name Rhino. Females do not have any horns and are smaller. Predators are birds and snakes. The Hercules beetle, a specie of Rhino beetle, is the longest in the world- up to 19cm or as long as a pencil.

Leopard tortoise
The name is derived from the spotted pattern on its protective shell that resembles leopard dots.

This tortoise can reach a top speed of 0.5km/h and live for 50-100 years. The biggest threat is dogs, cats, and humans. The Leopard tortoise is considered vulnerable and threatened as a conservation status. Favourite foods are grasses and live in savannah and grassland, in holes of other animals. It is the largest species in Southern Africa.

If they come across a bone, they'll nibble on it for calcium. Eating and resting are the only past time. Adaptation is storing water in its bursa sac in dry months for moistening hard ground for laying eggs and hydration, but if there's water, it might stay underwater for about 10 minutes.

Elephant shrew
Also called Sengis or jumping shrew and native only to Africa, is a mammal with the distinctive feature of a long snout nose – like an elephant.

Listed as vulnerable, it lives in the savannah, desert, forest, woodland, and rocky areas. Adapted to outrun predators, the shrew can run the fastest at 13 to 28.8km per hour, not to be caught. Omnivorous, loves insects, spiders, and worms, but insects are the favourite. It is food for snakes, jackals, and other omnivores and carnivores predators, therefore adapted to jumping and running. They usually burrow 10 cm below ground, as far as 50 cm deep, and have excellent hearing and smelling senses.

Although it doesn't seem significant now, these five creatures, like many others, form the foundation of unique habitats and biodiversity wherever they live.
It is our responsibility and honour to keep our eyes wide open when walking in the bush and only leave behind footprints and a camera click.