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The ‘Small Five’ of Kenya

Tired of always looking for the common ‘Big 5’? How about making a different kind of bucket list for wildlife spotting? Many wildlife enthusiasts have heard of the “Big Five”, but did you know Africa also has a group of animals known as the “Little Five”? The members bear the names of their much more impressive namesakes: the rhino beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion, leopard tortoise and elephant shrew.


The elephant shrew is a small, insect-eating mammal that lives in arid lowlands, forests, and savannah grasslands. It is characterized by an elongated snout and a body resembling that of a mouse. Elephant shrews are becoming endemic to the African continent and are seldom seen due to their extremely shy and wary nature.


Ant lions bear no resemblance to the fearsome cats that prowl the reserve in prides. Ant Lions are aggressive little insects with an interesting technique of capturing their prey. Ant lions dig small funnel-shaped sand traps about 2 inches deep in dry, sunny spots waiting for their prey especially the ants. Once they fall in they can’t climb out.


Leopard tortoises are so called because of the distinct spot pattern on their shell that resembles the rosettes of the beautiful leopards. Just like other tortoise species the Leopard Tortoise is able to draw its head, tail, and legs into their shell for protection. Leopard Tortoises are herbivorous living across East and Southern Africa in savannah habitats.


Buffalo weavers are sociable birds which build huge, untidy and seemingly unstructured communal nests from twigs and coarse grasses. These birds tend to live in dry savannahs and sparse woodlands. Their diet consists primarily of insects, seeds, and fruits. You may have a chance to spot them while on a camp bird walk at Basecamp Masai Mara.


The rhino beetle is a very large, scary-looking but harmless horned beetle that looks quite a lot like a fully grown rhino. Both males and females are horned, but only the males are known for aggressive behavior, using the horns to fight rivals. Rhinoceros beetles also use their horns to dig, climb, and mate.

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