Africa’s Shy Five

By Kings Camp Team on July 28, 2021

If you’ve ever been to the bush or always wanted to go on safari, you’ve probably heard of – and even seen – the Big 5. This includes lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. Today the term has evolved to include more categories to tick off your ‘seen list’.

We’ve put together a get to know you guide to Africa’s lesser known Shy 5 – a few of which you can hope to see in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.


Hystrix africaeaustralis

Porcupines are formidable, solitary creatures. They are one of Africa’s largest rodents (weighing between 10 and 25kgs) and even if you’re a lion, you’d think twice about crossing one.

With up to 30 000 quills, a porcupine is well-armoured and can quickly reverse into their assailant to ward off danger. The word porcupine comes from the French porc espin – basically meaning spined pig.

Cape porcupines, like the ones found in the Timbavati are rarely seen. Their droppings are often the only evidence you’ll find that they leave behind.


Orycteropus afer

Arguably the most secretive of the Shy Five, the aardvark is an unusual animal rarely seen on safari. Directly translated from Afrikaans, the aardvark’s name means ‘ground pig’. They are expert excavators, known for breaking open ant hills and digging to find food.

Aardvark are occasionally seen on safari at Kings Camp, but the Karoo in South Africa is one of the best places to see aardvark.


Proteles cristata

The aardwolf is a solitary, foraging member of the Shy 5 – most closely resembling a small hyena. Aardwolves are insectivorous creatures, feeding on termites and not meat surprisingly.

They like to use burrows created by other animals which have dug out termite mounds. Aardwolf prefer grasslands and semi-arid plains in places like the Northern Cape and the Karoo, but have been seen in the Kruger Area.


Viverra mungo

A mongoose is a small carnivorous creature with a long face and slender body. The banded mongoose is the one you’re most likely to find on safari at Kings Camp.

They feed on millipedes and beetles and live in colonies with a complex social structure. They like to use termite mounds to burrow into but also live in rock shelters, thickets and gullies.


Bat-eared fox

Otocyon megalotis

The bat-eared fox is another interesting-looking member of the Shy 5. Their large ears are used for thermoregulation and to detect insects and small rodents moving underground.

They favour arid and semi-arid regions in south and east Africa.

We’d love to know more about your sightings of the Shy 5. If you’d like to enquire about your stay at Kings Camp, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by filling in our online enquiry form here.

We look forward to hopefully introducing you to some of the Shy 5 during your stay.


Image credits:
Cathan Moore
Roxanne Reid
Arnoud Quanjer
Ken Weber

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