The stupid 5 (as opposed to the Big 5)

Most people have heard of Africa’s famous Big 5 safari animals – the lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, elephant and rhino. Travel writers have offered up alternative animal lists such as the Little 5, the Ugly 5, or the Impossible 5. But what are Africa’s dumbest animals, or the Stupid 5?

Here are my nominees for the elite members of this very special group of extremely dumb animals.

Helmeted Guinea Fowl

A helmeted guineafowl

Whilst on a safari in Hlane in Swaziland, Eswatini, I was trying to think of animals that are a few sandwiches short of a picnic. And behold, in front of me were some creatures dumb enough to join the Stupid 5. I mean, who runs in front of a vehicle, when they possess the capability to fly into safety? Let me introduce you to the Helmeted Guinea fowl.

Anyone who has been on a game drive has no doubt seen Guinea fowl on the road. And as the vehicle approaches they simply run ahead on the road. right in front of the vehicles wheels. If they possessed any sense at all they would run off into the bush and away from the road but no, they remain on the road, running in front of a vehicle that could probably run them over. Possessing wings and the ability to fly does not seem to cross their mind. And when one of them remembers this amazing feat, they fly for about 10m and then land on the road, in front of the vehicle and continue running.

I have seen this happen in Zimbabwe for over a kilometre, to begin with it was quite amusing but after a while it was rather exhausting. Watching them in full sprint, ducking and diving like mad and not achieving safety was very frustrating. I even slowed down for them to get their bearings but this did not help, they simply carried on running along the road with imminent doom behind them. They did survive by the way.

Blue wildebeest

A blue wildebeest in the long grass

The blue wildebeest is unlucky enough to be the only animal in both the Stupid 5 and the Ugly 5. Wildebeest sound very strange when they call, and they often give the impression that not all the tools are in the box. The way they stare at you really does make you wonder if there is anyone at home at all.

Wildebeest run at the slightest provocation and then keep on running, even when there is no apparent reason. I can imagine the conversation. They are spooked and run, then after a while, a very long while, one wildebeest will turn to the other and say “Why are we running?” And the other will reply “I dunno, I was just following you.” But they just keep on running as they have forgotten the first part of their conversation.

Sausage Fly

A male driver ant, also known as a sausage fly

Commonly known as “sausage flies” these creatures are actually male driver ants. Like most insects, they have very small brains, which makes them prime candidates for the Stupid 5. Sausage flies come out at night and appear to possess no navigational system in the slightest, bashing into everyone and everything in the vicinity. They manoeuvre around as if they are in a pinball machine. Often they then fall onto the floor, often on their backs and simply buzz away like crazy not being able to right themselves. They are short lived, short changed in life and chronically dense. Very stupid.

Any Nightjar

A montane nightjar, or the Abyssinian nightjar, often found in eastern and central africa

Nightjars are a family of bird species found all over the world, and Africa is no exception. However, they unfortunately aren’t the brightest.

Nightjars love being on the road at night, as they blend in well to the environment and the road is warm from the earlier sunshine. Unfortunately, nightjars are extremely stubborn and they just don’t move. So, when you are driving home at night, you need to have your wits about you to avoid running over a poor unsuspecting nightjar. Even if it would remove a bit of stupidity from the gene pool.

Nightjars will fly off the road but only at a push. At first, they will try and stay the course, waiting to see if they won’t be seen and survive being run over by a heavy vehicle (which of course they won’t). So you patiently move closer, trying to make them know that you are there. You spend ages turning your lights on and off so that they are no longer dazzled by the light beam and can make a safe exit. This can take a very long time….

Sun spider

Sun spiders are a group of arachnids which are also known as solifugae, camel spiders, or wind scorpions. I have put these critters in as I don’t like them very much. But, there is a logical reason as well, they run towards light and towards movement. I mean who does that at night, at full pelt and not knowing the consequences? They are very primitive beasts (they should be in the Ugly 5 too) but I was struggling to find one more for this category. There is also no picture as they give me the heebie jeebies and I didn’t want to scare you all. (Also, I have not got a photo as they move too quickly and have never EVER had the inclination to try to get one in the first place.)

I would like to say that I considered putting Homo sapiens onto the list. But then if I did this I would be putting myself into the Stupid 5 as well…and we can’t have that can we?

These are my thoughts and is in no way an official ‘Five’. Please feel free to nominate other contenders for the Stupid 5 and I will take them into consideration.

Sense Earth provides bespoke, self-drive,  or group guided tours which provide opportunities to see the Big 5, the Little 5, the Shy 5, the Ugly 5 and the newly coined Stupid 5.  Contact us to discuss the options available.

Jenny Bowen

Author: Jenny Bowen

I live for travel, whether it is at home or abroad. It is a joy to explore new places, meet new people and to have an adventure. There are so many wonderful places to visit and such fascinating wildlife to see, you never know what is around the corner! Live life to the full and restore you soul.