The “Little Five Game” animals…Hard to find…Interesting to see…

A rhino beetle we found on the veranda on Thursday. They are harmless to humans and don’t bite.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Basket, the Bully, appeared with a terrible injury to his right ear, most likely due to a fight with another warthog.

A few nights ago, while Linda, Ken, and Tom, and I lounged on the veranda after dinner, we joyfully spotted what we thought was a dung beetle. We were even more excited when we realized it was harder to spot rhino beetle. We couldn’t have been more thrilled to see and handle this fantastic little creature, a member of Africa’s “Little Five Game.”

Unfortunately, we’ve only spotted two of the little five during our past year in the bush, as indicated in today’s included photos. But in our remaining 26 days in Marloth Park, we’ll be keeping an eye out for the other three little creatures in this select group, hoping to round out this experience.

In any case, we wanted to share with our readers precisely what is construed as the Little or Small Five as an adjunct to the familiar and popular Big Five so enthusiastically sought by visitors and locals to national parks and game reserves throughout Africa.

Today we’ll start with a description of the Elephant shrew and continue from there, ending with our favorite, the infamous rhino beetle, which joined us after dinner on Thursday evening.

A considerable portion of the text has been added from this site.  

“In Africa, the little five game animals are: The term “little five” was brought to life after the marketing success of the big five for tourist safaris in Southern Africa. This prompted a call by nature conservationists for visitors to acknowledge the savanna’s smaller — less noticed — but still enigmatic animals (called bushveld in South Africa).

The “little five” species contrast in terms of sheer relative size to the animals, which
they share a part of their English name with the more well-known “Big Five.”

The”Little or Small Five game” consist of the following animals:
This is an elephant shrew. (Not our photo).

Elephant shrew: a small, insect-eating mammal with a long nose. Elephant shrews are very common in Southern Africa but seldom seen. Elephant shrews, also called jumping shrews or sengis, are small insectivorous mammals native to Africa, belonging to the family Macroscelididae in Macroscelidea. Their traditional common English name “elephant shrew” comes from a fancied resemblance between their long noses and the trunk of an elephant and their superficial similarity with shrews (family Soricidae) in the order Eulipotyphla. However, phylogenetic analysis revealed that elephant shrews are not classified with true shrews but are, in fact, more closely related to elephants than shrews. In 1997 the biologist Jonathan Kingdon proposed that they instead are called “sengis” (singular sengi), a term derived from the Bantu languages of Africa, and in 1998 they were classified into the new clade Afrotheria. They are widely distributed across the southern part of Africa. Although common nowhere, they can be found in almost any type of habitat, from the Namib Desert to boulder-strewn outcrops in South Africa to thick forest. One species, the North African elephant shrew, remains in the semiarid, mountainous country in the continent’s far northwest.  The creature is one of the fastest small mammals, having been recorded to reach 28.8 kilometers per hour (17.9 mph).

Red-billed buffalo weaver. (Not out photo).

Buffalo weaver: The body length of approximately 24 cm and the weight of 65 g place rank this as one of the largest Ploceidae (weaver birds). Visually the sexes are not significantly differentiated from one another. The red-billed buffalo weaver is distinguished from the white-billed buffalo weaver (Bubalornis albirostris) by the color of its bill. The feathers of the male are dark chocolate brown. The front wing edges and the wingtips are flecked with white. His bill is a shade of red. The eyes are brown, and the feet are reddish-brown. The female’s body is also colored dark chocolate brown, without the white flecks on the wings. However, her chin and throat feathers include broad white-colored hems. Her eyes are dark brown, and her legs light brown. Adolescent birds are a lighter shade of brown.

The diet of the red-billed buffalo weaver consists primarily of insects, seeds, and fruit. Particular insects the bird feeds on include crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, weevils, wasps, bees, ants, flies, and spiders. Its diet also includes scorpions. Most of these food sources are located in the soil or low vegetation. As a result, the red-billed buffalo weaver does most of its foraging on the ground. Climate changes have not significantly affected the abundance of prey for the bird.  These birds tend to live in dry savannahs and sparse woodlands. They prefer areas usually disturbed by humans and livestock. If people living in the community, with a population of red-billed buffalo weavers, leave, the birds often depart as well. Thus, at places that continue to be urbanized, these birds find more homes. Additionally, overpopulation does not tend to be a problem for the red-billed buffalo weaver, as they live in colonies.

This is our photo of a leopard tortoise we spotted in Kruger, shown in this post.

Leopard tortoise: The leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) is a giant and attractively marked tortoise found in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape. It is the only member of the genus Stigmochelys, although it was commonly placed in Geochelone in the past.  This tortoise is a grazing species that favors semi-arid, thorny grassland habitats. They may dwell in abandoned fox, jackal, or aardvark holes in both scorching and cold weather. Leopard tortoises do not dig other than to make nests in which to lay eggs. Given its propensity for grassland habitats, it grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It also favors succulents and thistles. The phylogenic placement of the leopard tortoise has been subject to several revisions. Different authors have placed it in Geochelone (1957), Stigmochelys (2001), Centrochelys (2002), and Psammobates (2006). More recently, the consensus appears to have settled on Stigmochelys, a monotypic genus. There has been considerable debate about the existence of two subspecies, but recent work does not support this distinction.  “Stigmochelys is a combination of Greek words: stigma meaning “mark” or “point”* and chelone meaning “tortoise.” The specific name pardalis is from the Latin word Pardus meaning “leopard,” and refers to the leopard-like spots on the tortoise’s shell. The leopard tortoise is the fourth largest species of tortoise in the world, with typical adults reaching 40 centimeters (16 in) and weighing 13 kilograms (29 lb). Adults tend to be more prominent in the northern and southern ends of their range, where typical specimens weigh up to 20 kilograms (44 lb), and a gigantic tortoise may reach 70 centimeters (28 in) and weigh 40 kilograms (88 lb). The carapace is high and domed with steep, almost vertical sides. Juveniles and young adults are attractively marked with black blotches, spots, or even dashes and stripes on a yellow background. In mature adults, the markings tend to fade to a nondescript brown or gray. The head and limbs are uniformly colored yellow, tan, or brown.

This is an antlion.  (Not our photo).

Antlion: The antlions are a group of about 2,000 species of insect in the family Myrmeleontidae, known for the fiercely predatory habits of their larvae, which in many species dig pits to trap passing ants or other prey. The adult insects are less well known, as they mostly fly at dusk or after dark, and maybe mistakenly identified as dragonflies or damselflies; they are sometimes known as antlion lacewings, and in North America, the larvae are sometimes referred to as doodlebugs because of the strange marks they leave in the sand.  Antlions have a worldwide distribution. The most extraordinary diversity occurs in the tropics, but a few species are found in cold-temperate locations, such as the European Euroleon nostras. They most commonly occur in dry and sandy habitats where the larvae can easily excavate their pits, but some larvae hide under debris or ambush their prey among leaf litter.  Antlions are poorly represented in the fossil record. Myrmeleontiformia is generally accepted as a monophyletic group, and within the Myrmeleontoidea, the antlions closest living relatives are thought to be the owlflies (Ascalaphidae). The predatory actions of the larvae have attracted attention throughout history, and antlions have been mentioned in literature since classical times.

This is our photo of a rhino beetle.  See info below.

Rhino beetle:  Dynastinae or rhinoceros beetles are a subfamily of the scarab beetle family (Scarabaeidae). Other common names – some for particular rhinoceros beetles – include Hercules beetles, unicorn beetles, or horn beetles. Over 300 species of rhinoceros beetles are known.  Many rhinoceros beetles are well known for their unique shapes and larger sizes. Some notable species are, for example, the Atlas beetle (Chalcosoma atlas), common rhinoceros beetle (Xylotrupes Ulysses), elephant beetle (Megasoma elephas), European rhinoceros beetle.  (Oryctes nasicornis), Hercules beetle (Dynastes Hercules), Japanese rhinoceros beetle or kabutomushi (Allomyrina dichotoma), ox beetle (Strategus aloeus), and the Eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus). The Dynastinae are among the largest beetles, reaching more than 150 mm (6 in) in length, but are entirely harmless to humans because they cannot bite or sting.

Some species have been anecdotally claimed to lift to 850 times their weight. Their common names refer to the characteristic horns borne only by the males of most species in the group. Each has a horn on the head and another horn pointing forward from the center of the thorax. The horns are used in fighting other males during mating season and for digging. The size of the horn is a good indicator of nutrition and physical health. The Dynastinae are among the largest beetles, reaching more than 150 mm (6 in) in length, but are entirely harmless to humans because they cannot bite or sting. Some species have been anecdotally claimed to lift to 850 times their weight. Their common names refer to the characteristic horns borne only by the males of most species in the group. Each has a horn on the head and another horn pointing forward from the center of the thorax. The horns are used in fighting other males during mating season and for digging. The size of the horn is a good indicator of nutrition and physical health.  The body of an adult rhinoceros beetle is covered by a thick exoskeleton. A pair of broad wings lies atop another set of membranous wings underneath, allowing the rhinoceros beetle to fly, although not very efficiently, owing to its large size. Their best protection from predators is their size and stature.

Additionally, since they are nocturnal, they avoid many of their predators during the day. When the sun is out, they hide under logs or in vegetation to camouflage themselves from the few predators big enough to want to eat them. If rhinoceros beetles are disturbed, some can release very loud, hissing squeaks. The hissing squeaks are created by rubbing their abdomens against the ends of their wing covers. Rhinoceros beetles are relatively resilient; a healthy adult male can live up to 2–3 years. The females rarely live long after they mate.”

Tomorrow, we’ll continue with more from yesterday’s outing to Kruger National Park with more exciting photos, focusing on some unusual shots of hippos, up close and personal.

Please check back tomorrow for more.  

Have a lovely weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, January 19, 2018:

A colorful exterior of an ethnic restaurant near a park in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina.  For more photos, please click here.