from the Author

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Ralph writes:

I would like to introduce you to the Small Five – five little creatures that I first met in 2002, while helping a Kenyan safari camp design some ‘bush activities’ for its younger visitors.

The people at the camp were very clever. They realised that little kids may not want to spend hours cooped up in a car with their parents looking for the ‘Big Five’ (especially when they have to stop for every small bird!). Instead, they devised a great series of activities that could be done in the safety of the camp grounds, including building mud houses, making bead necklaces, firing bows and arrows – and looking for the Small Five.

These wonderful little creatures only occur together in a few places in eastern and southern Africa. Unlike their famous namesakes – the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant – they tend to stay out of the limelight, and have thus far managed to escape being included in a book!

The members of this little club are:

  • the Elephant Shrew, an agile and cunning hunter named after the trunk-like nose it uses to sniff out insects;
  • the Buffalo Weaver, which lives in a big communal nest and follows herds of buffalo around, looking for the insects they kick up as they walk;
  • the Leopard Tortoise, which can live up to 100 years of age and has beautiful camouflaged markings like a leopard’s;
  • the Antlion, the larva of a dragonfly-like insect, which digs a funnel-shaped trap in loose sand to catch ants for its food;
  •  and the Rhinoceros Beetle, which uses its horn to dig in the undergrowth for food, and can carry more than 30 times its own weight!

These five little creatures are true kings of the wild – even though very few people have really had a chance to meet them. Harriet and I hope that The Small Five begins to change all that!