In Africa, the little five game animals are:
1. Elephant shrew: a small, insect-eating mammal with a long nose. Elephant shrews are very common in Southern Africa but seldom seen.
2. Buffalo weaver: the buffalo weaver is the easiest among the little five to find and observe.
3. Leopard tortoise (commonly found at Sibuya Game Reserve)
4. Antlion or ant lion
5. Rhino beetle
The term little five was brought to life, after safari tourists’ successful wildlife experience of the big five in Southern Africa. It was after a call by nature conservationists for visitors also to acknowledge the smaller — less noticed — but still enigmatic, animals of the savanna (called bushveld in South Africa).
Each “little” species is a contradiction in sheer size to the big five animal, but the first part of its English name relates to one of the famous bigger five animals one-on-one.
In Africa, the big five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros (both black and white species), elephant, and Cape buffalo. The term “big five game” (usually capitalized or quoted as “Big Five”) was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Subsequently the term was adopted by safari tour operators for marketing purposes. The term is used in most tourist and wildlife guides that discuss African wildlife safaris. The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size.
The 1990 and later releases of South African rand banknotes feature a different big-five animal on each denomination.
Countries where all the members of the big five can be found include Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa (Eastern Cape, Sibuya Game Reserve), Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Malawi.
The rinkhals, also called the ringhals or ring-necked spitting cobra, is a species of venomous snake found in parts of Southern Africa including Sibuya Game Reserve.
A small to medium sized snake usually 90 cm to 120 cm in length, but can reach 1,5m. The snake is closely related to the true cobras, but differs from the true cobras in having keeled dorsal scales. In all other respects it acts like a cobra, being able to rear up and spread a hood.
The venom of the rinkhals is neurotoxic and partially cytotoxic, and is less viscous than that of other African elapids. When confronting a human, it generally aims its venom at the face. If the venom enters the eyes, it causes great pain.
If distressed, the rinkhals spreads its hood, showing its distinctive, striped neck. It is a spitting snake, and can spray its venom up to 2.5 m. Its spitting mechanism is primitive and it has to rear up and fling its body forward to spray its venom. It is also known to fake death by rolling onto its back with its mouth agape.
The caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. The caracal is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears and long canine teeth. The caracal inhabits forests, savannas, marshy lowlands, semi-deserts and scrub forests and can be found on the Sibuya Game Reserve.
Typically nocturnal, the caracal is highly secretive and difficult to observe. It is territorial, and lives mainly alone or in pairs. The caracal is a carnivore that typically preys upon small mammals, birds and rodents.
It can leap higher than 3 m and catch birds in mid-air. It stalks its prey until it is within 5 m of it, after which it runs it down, the prey being killed by a bite to the throat or to the back of the neck.
Breeding takes place throughout the year with both sexes becoming sexually mature by the time they are a year old. Gestation lasts between two and three months, resulting in a litter of one to six kittens. Juveniles leave their mothers at nine to ten months, though a few females stay back with their mothers. The average lifespan of the caracal in captivity is nearly 16 years.
The African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large African bovine. The adult buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature; they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield across the top of the head referred to as a “boss”. They are widely regarded as very dangerous animals.
Savannah-type buffaloes have black or dark brown coats with age. Old bulls have whitish circles around their eyes. Females tend to have more-reddish coats. Forest-type buffaloes are reddish brown in colour with horns that curve back and slightly up. Calves of both types have red coats.
The African buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa. It lives in swamps and floodplains, as well as mopane grasslands and forests of the major mountains of Africa and also found on Sibuya Game Reserve. This buffalo prefers a habitat with dense cover, such as reeds and thickets, but can also be found in open woodland. While not particularly demanding with regard to habitat, they require water daily, so depend on perennial sources of water.
African buffaloes make various vocalizations. Many calls are lower-pitched versions of those emitted by domestic cattle. They emit low-pitched, two- to four-second calls intermittently at three- to six-second intervals to signal the herd to move. To signal to the herd to change direction, leaders emit “gritty”, “creaking gate” sounds.
Lissachatina fulica is a species of large land snail that belong in the Achatinidae family. It is also known as the giant African snail or giant African land snail.
This snail species has been considered a significant cause in pest issues around the world. Internationally, it is the most frequently occurring invasive species of snail.
The giant African snail is native to East Africa, and can be traced back to Kenya and Tanzania. It is a highly invasive species, and colonies can be formed from a single gravid individual. The giant snail can now be found in agricultural areas, coastland, natural forest, planted forests, riparian zones, scrub and shrublands, urban areas, and wetlands as well as on Sibuya Game Reserve.
The giant African snail is a macrophytophagous herbivore; it eats a wide range of plant material, fruit, and vegetables. It will sometimes eat sand, very small stones, bones from carcasses and even concrete as calcium sources for its shell.
Giant African land snail trying to cross the road at its fastest pace (Photo taken by Chris Ovens)
DISTRIBUTION & HABITAT
The Cape starling is found in the southern part of Africa, commonly found around Sibuya Game Reserve. Its range encompasses the extreme south of Gabon, the west and south of Angola, the extreme south of Zambia, the southern half of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa.
The Cape starling is found where trees in which it can roost and nest are found. It is not a bird of dense forest or of pasture and is not associated with any particular plant type. It does occur in open woodland, plantations, savannah, bushveld, rough grassland, parks and gardens and is quite numerous in the central Kalahari where isolated trees occur.
(This phenomenal photo was taken by Senior Field Guide Christiaan)
The Cape starling is a gregarious bird and forms large flocks in the non-breeding season. It usually feeds on the ground often foraging alongside other species of starlings such as the pied starling, the common starling, the greater blue-eared starling, the lesser blue-eared starling, the wattled starling and Burchell’s starling. It is habituated to humans and its diet includes fruit, insects and nectar. It sometimes feeds on ectoparasites that it picks off the backs of animals and it sometimes visits bird tables for scraps.
A glistening Cape Glossy Starling following one of the mega-herbivores hoping that this giant will flush out some juicy insect as it stomps around.