Praying mantids are sit-and-wait predators, and could be considered the insect equivalent of a leopard. Gorongosa has a particularly rich diversity of these beautiful insects, and nearly 40 species have been recorded in the Park. The high number of praying mantids is a good indicator of the health of this ecosystem – just like lions and other hunters, praying mantids need a large variety of prey, which can only exist in a rich habitat like Gorongosa.
Bark praying mantis (Zouza) is a perfectly camouflaged hunter of moths and flies. It can be found by slowly scanning tree bark, but usually the encounter with this insect is very brief, as they will run away at lightning speed the moment they realize that they have been spotted. Slender bark mantis (Sibylla) has a similar behavior. Tree mantis (Epitenodera) is one of the largest insects of Gorongosa, but this does not mean that it is easy to see. Despite being over 15 cm (6 inches) long, it blends in perfectly among branches, waiting for grasshoppers and other insects. Leaf mantis (Polyspilota) is frequently found around camp lights at night, where it hunts moths and other insects attracted to light. If frightened, this mantis often fans its large wings and displays bright colors on the inside of its large raptorial legs. It is all just a bluff – these insects are completely harmless.