We all know of Bengal Tigers and the Great White Shark, but which creatures really are the most dangerous animals in the world? From tiny deadly spiders to weird tapeworms that will make your skin crawl, you may be surprised by some of the entries in this list. Some of the most inconspicuous looking animals can actually be the most deadly to humans, while others are just look downright terrifying.
The Inland Taipan
Going to Australia? Make sure to watch out for the most venomous snake on the planet – the ever-dangerous Inland Taipan, a species you’ll certainly want to avoid at all costs. So lethal is this reclusive reptile that experts estimate a single bite contains sufficient venom to kill 100 men.
For those unfortunate enough to cross paths, death tends to come quickly, in as little as half-an-hour. Been bitten? You’re unlikely to live to tell the tale.
So far so bad, but the good news is that chance encounters are far from common. Inland Taipan prefer to keep themselves to themselves, making their homes in Australia’s semi-arid central eastern regions, locations that are remote, with humans few and far between.
Fast and agile, this is a snake that strives to avoid others and will do its utmost to remain hidden in the shadows. But make no mistake: if cornered, the Inland Taipan will defend itself, so walk away if you ever see one.
Found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Cape Buffalo is also nicknamed ‘Black Death’. It’s a really big beast, weighing up to 900 kg, and their thick horns often measure 100 cm across. The Cape Buffalo isn’t tall and its legs are short, it almost looks harmless but trust us, you don’t want to attack one.
It’s estimated that around 200 people a year are gored, trampled and killed by the beast… Hunters often consider the big bovines to present no great challenge, but it’s a mistake they make at their own peril. The Cape Buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals to hunt, and more big game hunters lives are lost to Cape Buffalo than to lions, tigers and other fearsome predators.
The animal has the reputation to ambush its attackers… circling back on their pursuers and counter attacking. The males will do anything to protect the herd – even chase a lion – and they can get extremely aggressive. If you love hunting you might want to stick with deer.
Great White Shark
Thanks to Jaws, there’s perhaps no predator on Earth more feared than the Great White Shark. Responsible for more recorded bites and fatal attacks on humans than all other sharks species, the Great White Shark is a marine monster, weighing up to 1900 kg and often 20 feet in length from nose to tail.
It’s one of the most dangerous predators because it’s fast – able to swim at speeds up to 35 miles per hour – and it can detect a drop of blood in 94 litres of water. The reason why sharks bite humans is they are being curious when they encounter something unusual in their territories and the only way they can explore an object or organism is to bite it. The animal will then swim away, yet, a single bite can grievously injure a human.
Many of the attacks occur in coastal waters around Australia, Florida and the Reunion Island. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), there were 2,785 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks around the world between 1958 and 2016, 439 were fatal. If fatalities are low, it’s because sharks usually make one swift attack and then retreat to wait for the victim to die or weaken before returning to feed. This protects the shark from getting injured. It also gives humans time to get out of the water and survive!
In 2019, 64 unprovoked and 41 provoked bites were recorded; a provoked bite occurs when a human initiates physical contact with a shark (a diver getting bitten when trying to grab one or bites that happen while removing sharks from fishing hooks and nets). Despite these reports, the actual number of fatal shark attacks worldwide remains uncertain as in most third world coastal nations, there is no existing method of reporting suspected shark attacks.
The Siafu ant, also called driver ant, and dorylus is commonly found in Central and East Africa. When food supplies are short, the siafu ant colony is on the move, a real army comprising 20 million individual ants, devouring everything in their path.
Their scissor-like jaws slice through their unfortunate prey, whilst the powerful dissolving acid that oozes from their mouths ensures that meals can be digested quickly, without ever halting the column’s relentless progress. Large numbers of ants can kill small or immobilized animals and eat the flesh. You can easily avoid them as the colony don’t move very fast, but if they decide to pass through your house it could be a highly dangerous zone, and they’ll definitely attack you if you’re not moving.
These ants bite is severely painful, leaving two puncture wounds when removed. Moreover, removal is very difficult, as the jaws are extremely strong and can lift 5000 times the ant’s body weight (BBC). Such is the strength of their jaws that, in East Africa, they are used as natural, emergency sutures by indigenous tribal peoples to stitch the wound by getting the ants to bite on both sides of the gash, then breaking off the body.
Toxic, aggressive and able to move at lightning speeds, the Black Mamba has a fearsome reputation in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a region where around 1.5 million people suffer a snake bite of one kind or another every year. Been attacked? You’d better hope it was a different species. Most people who encounter a Black Mamba end up six feet under.
You could run, but the Black Mamba is the fastest land snake on the planet, able to travel at speeds up to 12 miles per hour, making escape on foot unlikely. Been cornered? The end is near, this amongst the most venomous predators around, with death sometimes following a fatal bite in as little as 20 minutes.
Some 20,000 people die from snake bites in sub-Saharan Africa each year and the Black Mamba is responsible for more than its fair share. Steer clear at all costs or the chances are you’ll pay the ultimate price.
Measuring up to 20 feet from nose to tail – and weighing in at around 1,000 kg – the Saltwater Crocodile is a monstrous beast. Mostly found in India, Australia and Micronesia, this is an opportunistic predator that shows its victims no mercy.
Find yourself locked in its powerful jaws and you might as well say your prayers. For those unfortunate enough to be attacked, there is no second chance.
One of the largest crocs around, the Saltwater Crocodile can boast the strongest bite of any animal on Earth today. Its victims are often ambushed before being drowned and devoured – or sometimes swallowed whole. This is, according to experts, the creature most likely to eat a human, and the number of those whose days come to an abrupt end in a crocodile’s jaws are not insignificant. Take care around brackish waterholes and out on the ocean, where cunning crocs are prone to lurk beneath the surface, waiting to strike with devastating consequences.
The saltwater crocodile has a strong tendency to treat humans as prey and has a long history of attacking humans who travel into its territory. The only recommended policy for dealing with saltwater crocodiles is to completely avoid their habitat whenever possible, as they get extremely aggressive when their territory is trespassed and it’s unlikely you’ll survive their attack. One study estimated 30 attacks per year by saltwater crocodiles, of which 50% were fatal (wikipedia). Though exact data on attacks are limited outside Australia, as humans and saltwater crocodiles co-exist in relatively undeveloped, low-economy and rural regions, where attacks are likely to go unreported.
You might think that, as renowned scavengers, hyenas pose little threat to the living. You’d be mistaken. The striped hyena does tend to feast on animal corpses and carcasses, but its spotted counterpart is a predator that is to be avoided at all costs.
Spotted hyenas kill as much as 95% of all their food, preying on creatures large and small across their wild African homelands. Humans are not safe from these ruthless nocturnal carnivores, with night-time attacks not uncommon. Be under no illusions about this: Spotted hyenas are cunning man-eaters, plain and simple.
Hyenas are perhaps best known for their distinctive calls, but to come face to face with one is no laughing matter. Large claws, sharp teeth and bone-crushing jaws make this a dangerous beast indeed. Fearsome and fast, outrunning a hungry hyena isn’t an option. Take our advice: be prepared, take precautions and be sure to steer clear.
The Pufferfish is a remarkable creature which live mostly in the warm waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Sluggish and slow, they can’t escape an approaching predator. However, this surprising fish has a deadly defense mechanism: it ingests huge quantities of water, blowing itself up to several times its size and in the process becoming inedible.
The creature is also packed with poison. Tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide, and there’s enough in a Pufferfish to kill around 30 adult humans. Even worse, there’s no known antidote – making a grim death inevitable.
Remarkably, given its immense toxicity, Pufferfish is a delicacy in Japan, where it appears on fine dining menus as fugu. Be warned, however, that even in death, this remains a dangerous creature. Fugu chefs must be incredibly skilled to prepare it, as 30 to 50 people in Japan are hospitalized every year due to fugu poisoning.
The most dangerous sea urchin on Earth is to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple, with Flower Urchins often partially buried in the soft sand or lurking amongst coral reefs and rocks, hidden from sight and poised to inflict great pain.
Found in the warm waters around Indonesia, Australia and Japan, this is a common species in the Indo-West Pacific. It might appear pretty, but don’t be fooled. The Flower Urchin is both dangerous and deadly.
Growing up to 20 cm, the Flower Urchin delivers devastating stings from its fang-like tips, causing debilitating pain, muscular paralysis, breathing problems and disorientation. Those unfortunate enough to suffer a sting are in significant peril, with drowning a real danger as the effects take hold. Divers preparing to explore coral reefs are briefed to give Flower Urchins a wide berth. Those who ignore such advice risk paying the ultimate price.
Stepped on a Stonefish? You could be dead inside an hour. Our advice for the unfortunate? Seek urgent help immediately — and start saying your prayers. Most common in coastal Indo-Pacific regions, the Stonefish lurks on the ocean floor, hidden amongst coral and rocks, its remarkable camouflage making it all but invisible.
Come into contact and you’ll soon know that it’s there, however, the dorsal fin spikes injecting a poisonous blast into misplaced feet. The good news is that an anti-venom is available — but you’ll need to be quick.
The Reef Stonefish, native to Australia, is considered the most venomous fish on the planet, a sting prompting immense pain that can, in some instances, result in heart failure. Think you’re safe sticking to the sand? Think again. The Stonefish can survive out of the water for up to 24 hours — so even on the beach, dangers endure.
It might look harmless enough, but the Cone Snail is both dangerous and deadly. Packed with poison, those unfortunate enough to come into contact risk paying the ultimate price. Thinking about picking one up from the ocean floor? Take our best advice — don’t.
The Cone Snail possesses toxic harpoons that can fire in any direction without warning. The venom within contains countless compounds and varies from species to species. Given that there are more than 800 varieties — some measuring up to 23cm in length — finding an effective antidote is a tall order indeed.
Those stung can suffer muscular paralysis, blurred vision and breathing difficulties, whilst in severe cases, fatalities can occur. Lurking amongst coral reefs and rocks, Cone Snails tend to make their homes in tropical and sub-tropical waters. For anyone entering their immediate environment, the risks are significant and the dangers grave.
Golden Poison Dart Frog
It measures one inch and weighs one ounce, but don’t be fooled by the diminutive Golden Poison Dart Frog. This ranks amongst the most toxic creatures on the planet. It might only be as big as a paperclip, but it packs quite a punch.
Native to the rainforests of Colombia’s Pacific Coast, the Golden Poison Dart Frog varies in colour — it can be yellow, orange or green — but no matter its attractive appearance, this is an amphibian to avoid.
The deadly frog’s skin is coated with a toxin that is extraordinarily potent. Each creature can boast sufficient poison to kill up to 20 men — or two African bull elephants. Muscular paralysis and heart failure ensure that those unfortunate enough to come into close contract experience a grim end. Small it might be, but the Golden Poison Dart Frog poses a danger that couldn’t be greater. Size isn’t everything.
The good news first: Gray Wolves prefer to steer clear of people, choosing remote areas in which to live and avoiding human contact as much as possible. The bad news? If paths should cross, fatal attacks can and do occur.
Native to North America and Eurasia, the Gray Wolf is a merciless and powerful beast that becomes aggressive during times of confrontation. In countries such as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, encounters are not uncommon.
Gray Wolves are natural hunters that travel in large packs, their senses sharp and their skills honed. Weighing up to 45 kg, tackling larger prey — people included — holds no fears for these natural-born killers. The head and face are targeted first, with savage bites designed to debilitate and inflict maximum damage. Their victims limp and lifeless, Gray Wolves drag the kill away, ready to enjoy the spoils and consume a well-earned meal.
A worldwide 2002 study by the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research showed that 90% of victims of predatory attacks were children under the age of 18, especially under the age of 10. In the rare cases where adults were killed, the victims were almost always women (wikipedia).
Historically, children are more vulnerable to wolves as they were more likely to enter forests unattended to pick berries and mushrooms, as well as sometimes mistaking wolves for dogs. While these practices have largely died out in Europe, they are still the case in India, where numerous attacks have been recorded in recent decades.
Hippos are huge. They’re also aggressive. Responsible for around 500 human deaths in Africa each year, Hippopotamus rank amongst the most dangerous large land mammals on the planet. Take our advice and steer well clear. Go head to head with a Hippo and the chances are you’ll pay the ultimate price.
Measuring up to 16 feet long, five feet tall and weighing as much as 4,500 kg, this is an immense beast. With large teeth and tusks — and able to move at significant speeds — Hippopotamus take no prisoners. In their path? You’re in big trouble.
Unpredictable and always up for a fight, this is a territorial monster that can attack on land or in the water. Whether charging across the plains or capsizing boats with its giant head, the Hippo is a no-nonsense killing machine. Not understanding their nature, some people underestimate Hippopotamus which can prove to be a costly mistake.
Swimming just beneath the surface, the Indonesian needlefish isn’t known as an aggressive creature. Yet this is a dangerous species that can and does kill. Inflicting injuries – fatal or otherwise – is, in most cases, accidental. Yet this makes the needlefish no less dangerous.
Measuring up to three feet, this dagger-shaped ocean dweller has a long beak that is packed with razor-sharp teeth. From time to time, needlefish launch themselves out of the water at speeds of almost 40 miles per hour. Those in their path can be stabbed by these fast-flying spears. The injuries inflicted can be severe, the wounds deep, and the consequences sometimes grave.
Needlefish are often drawn to artificial light – putting those who engage in night fishing at the greatest risk of all. They’ve been known to leap into boats – impaling unfortunate anglers and ensuring that their reputation for danger remains intact. For many traditional Pacific Islander communities, who commonly fish on reefs from low boats, the species represent an greater risk of injury than sharks.
Found in the deserts and scrublands of North Africa and the Middle East, the Deathstalker’s name says it all. Considered one of the most dangerous scorpions on Earth, this is a creature to avoid at all costs. Spotted one scuttling along the desert floor? Take our advice and take evasive action.
Measuring up to three inches long, this is one sizeable scorpion — although it can be difficult to spot as it lurks amongst the rocks or blends into the sandy surface. Heading into the Deathstalker’s environment? Keep your eyes peeled as a sting can be extremely painful — and in some instances, even fatal. Its venom packed with a powerful mix of crippling neurotoxins, the aggressive Deathstalker is fast to attack and always means business.
There is an antivenom — but out in the deserts and the scrublands, an effective treatment isn’t always readily available. Fun fact – the scorpio’s venom have been found helpful in treating brain tumors and other diseases, and treatments using the venom are currently being investigated in medical trials.
It’s no great surprise to find Lions on a list like this. Ranking amongst the planet’s foremost predators, this is a beast built for hunting. The African Lion prefers other animals to people. But that doesn’t mean that the threat should be taken lightly.
Far from it, in fact. Fierce and fast, Lions kill around 250 people a year in Africa. This is a powerful animal indeed — making it ironic that the greatest danger to human life is thought to come from the sick and the elderly.
Lions that are older and/or infirm are unable to hunt their natural prey as effectively, making people — a relatively easy kill — an attractive alternative. For those unfortunate enough to cross paths, running is not an option, the Lion fast on its feet and prone to pounce the minute your back is turned. Cornered? Stand your ground, show no fear — and keep your fingers crossed.
The Assassin Bug is a strange creature. Feasting on insects, it impales its prey using its long proboscis, sucks it dry and then wears the creature’s lifeless corpse on its back as a kind of camouflage and impromptu armour.
It doesn’t appear to pose much danger to humans at first glance, although that piercing proboscis can inflict a painful stab, with toxic venom and digestive juices sometimes being injected into the wound. Not pleasant, perhaps, but far from deadly. But consider the following.
There are more than 7,000 varieties of Assassin Bug to be found worldwide and one of them, the blood-sucking Kissing Bug, found in U.S and Mexico, is a dangerous adversary. This is a species that waits until a person is asleep, before inflicting a series of painless bites around the mouth area.
The Kissing Bug then defecates into the miniscule puncture holes — causing chagas disease, an infection that can take decades to manifest. The problems caused include chronic heart problems and sometimes worse. Strange, unpleasant and one to avoid.
The Saw-scaled Viper is quite a small snake, but don’t be fooled. This irritable reptile packs quite a punch. Thought to be responsible for more human deaths than all other snake species combined, this is a creature you don’t want to meet.
The Viper’s venom contains a blend of four deadly toxins and, although death isn’t instantaneous, the devastating effects are soon felt. Those unfortunate enough to be bitten experience uncontrollable bleeding, with the body’s tissues dissolving, limbs being lost and the ultimate price soon being paid. The worst part? There is no antidote.
Found in the dry regions of Africa, Pakistan, India and the Middle East, the Saw-scaled Viper warns potential victims that it’s about to strike, rubbing sections of its body together to produce a sound that is perhaps best described as ‘sizzling’. Called stridulation, this is your best chance of avoiding an unfortunate end. Happened upon a sizzling snake? Be sure to take heed.
Blue Ringed Octopus
The Blue Ringed Octopus looks like a magical creature – but appearances can be deceptive. Yes, it’s colourful and pretty. But it’s also one of the most venomous marine animals on the planet and a close encounter can have fatal consequences.
Found in the tide pools and coral reefs of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, this is a common creature from Japan to Australia, and all ports in between. Spotted one lurking in the water? Watch out and keep your distance.
Dangerous and deadly, the Blue Ringed Octopus’ highly-toxic venom contains tetrodotoxin, and a dose can have dire results for anyone on the receiving end. Nausea, respiratory arrest, heart failure, paralysis and blindness can all be experienced, whilst in severe cases, those bitten can die within minutes. Encountered an Octopus? The creature’s distinctive blue rings will start to change colour if it feels threatened. Seen the warning signs? Take heed and flee.
Brazilian Wandering Spider
Don’t like arachnids? The Brazilian Wandering Spider is one to avoid at all costs. It’s fat and it’s hairy. It’s also deadly. The Guinness Book of Records classified this South American stalker as the world’s most-venomous spider.
Also known as the Banana Spider, this creature prowls the forest floor after dark, always on the hunt for food, with insects, amphibians, reptiles and mice in danger from this natural born killer. Humans are at risk also, a venomous bite often proving fatal, with children at the greatest risk.
There is a recognised antivenom for a Brazilian Wandering Spider bite — although receiving the appropriate treatment in time can prove to be quite a challenge for those deep in the jungle. Afraid of spiders? With plump bodies that can measure up to two inches in length, you’ll pray to not come across the Brazilian Wandering Spider.
Mosquitos are tiny. Yet the danger these miniscule blood suckers pose could not be bigger. The most dangerous creature on the planet? Few present greater risks to human health.
In itself, the Mosquito’s bite is little more than an annoyance, causing swelling, irritation and mild symptoms that pose few real problems. But this is an insect that can and does transmit fatal diseases. Health experts estimate that, each year, millions of people worldwide die as a result of Mosquito-borne diseases.
Those diseases? Most people know about Malaria, which is believed to be responsible for more than 400,000 global deaths on an annual basis. Factor in Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and the Zika and West Nile Viruses and it’s clear that the Mosquito’s devastating impact on human health is, in the main, grossly underestimated. Repellents and nets are available, yet this annoying insect sometimes inexplicably manages to defeat the protection.
Cute, cuddly, fluffy and quite possibly your best friend, unless we’re talking about large or aggressive breeds of dogs, or dogs that have been bred to fight, we don’t usually associate dogs with being dangerous to humans. And the vast majority aren’t dangerous ‘ the closest you might come to danger is being licked to death!
But dogs are carriers of rabies, a dangerous disease that causes upsetting symptoms in humans. These symptoms range from a high temperature and a headache to hallucinations, frothing at the mouth, muscle spasms and aggressive behaviour. (If you’re thinking of scary films with werewolves in them, then so are we!). Rabies isn’t found in dogs in the UK, thanks to our robust animal quarantine measures. However, it is found in some bats in the UK.
Overseas, particularly in countries in Asia, Africa, Central America and South America, rabies is found mainly in dogs, but also in cats, foxes, racoons, bats and jackals. Rabies is transmitted from animal to human via biting or scratching, or by tending to an infected animal.
So as tempting as it might be to pet or stroke a stray dog, give a cuddle to a cat that happens to wander past you on the street or tend to a sick animal whilst travelling to these areas of the world, unless you want to turn into a werewolf, it’s probably best to think twice before doing so.
Brown Recluse Spider
Another type of spider on our list of the most dangerous animals in the world, is the brown recluse spider. Native to North America, this spider has particularly nasty venom. In fact, it has so-called necrotic venom that can cause necrosis, or dying, of the skin, that apparently, you may or may not recover from…. In some cases, a bite from the brown recluse spider can cause a bursting of the red blood cells, which sounds utterly horrific.
You’ll know if you’re face to face with a brown recluse spider because it’ll be brown and spider like, with a tell-tale marking shaped like a violin on its abdomen. It’ll also have six eyes as opposed to eight, which most spiders have (so not just eight legs then, eight eyes too ‘ all the better to see you with!).
Like many spiders, this one will only bite if it feels threatened, but an overly sensitive soul, it may mistake you tidying up the stack of old papers in the garage that it’s made its home, as threatening behaviour. Reclusive by name, reclusive by nature, they really don’t like humans invading ‘their’ space wherever they happen to have laid their hat, so tidy up at your own peril.
The sandfly might just sound like something that’s mildly annoying during a day out to the beach, but like so many insects, it has the potential to make us very ill indeed. This tiny fly, measuring around 2mm (3mm on a good day), carries a microorganism called a protozoa, which is even smaller, with microscopic proportions. Despite the size of this fly, known as a disease vector, since it carries something else (the protozoa) that causes disease that cannot exist on its own, the disease it causes is far from insignificant.
The disease in question is called Leishmaniasis, which can exist in various different forms. Depending on the form, it can cause large skin ulcers, destroy the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat and cause swelling of the spleen and liver. All of which sound horrific and cause visible and significant deformities (and the mental health problems that come with that).
Only the female sandfly carries the Leishmaniasis disease, and transmits it in her bite. Found in the inter-tropical and temperate regions of the world, they tend to bite in the evening and at night.
Another snake to be wary of, is the tiger snake. If ever there was an animal to be scared of, it’s one with not one, but two scary names. Tigers and snakes are frightening enough, so the thought of a tiger snake is a step too far for many.
Although this isn’t some kind of weird hybrid of big cat and snake, obviously, but the tiger snake is still extremely dangerous. Native to Southern Australia and Tasmania, this snake kills not just with venom, but a mix of venom, neurotoxins (that affect the brain), coagulants (that make the blood become thick and clumpy) and other types of toxin.
So although it might not roar like a tiger, it’s certainly not an animal you want to be hanging out with. Accounting for around 17% of deaths by snake bite (actual bites by actual snakes, not the drink ever present in student union bars) in Australia, a bite from a tiger snake will begin as pain and tingling at the site of the bite (usually the foot or lower leg). Then, very quickly, you’ll be sweating profusely, struggling to breathe and then paralysis sets in. You just want to hope there’s someone nearby with the right antivenom.
Portuguese Man O’War
This Portuguese Man O’War seem like a pretty jellyfish lying on the beach but it is, in actual fact, a siphonophore – not a single creature at all, but a colony of organisms, all working together. Siphonophores are predators that feed, like jellyfish, by dangling tentacles in the water that sting and paralyze small crustaceans and fish.
Great lengths should be taken to avoid the Portuguese Man O’War, with dire consequences a real risk should an unplanned encounter occur. This floating monster delivers painful stings with its long tentacles, its venomous attacks vicious, and its victims left stricken. Those on the receiving end experience symptoms similar to a severe allergic reaction — including swelling of the larynx, cardiac distress, fever, shock and sometimes even death.
Inflicting agonising red welts, the carnivorous Man O’War floats away, leaving chaos and carnage in its wake. Some 10,000 people are stung each summer in Australia alone, with the report of a siphonophore in the water enough to close beaches down and prompt widespread panic.
Sydney funnel-web spider
Spiders give most of us the creeps, but thankfully, for the majority of us, we don’t have to contend with spiders that want to kill us. But spare a thought for those living in New South Wales on the east coast of Australia, because this is home to the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge’ and the Sydney funnel-web spider.
This spider gets its name from the fact that they bury themselves in a funnel shaped silk web, presumably to hide out and pounce on unsuspecting passers-by from their under-rock or hole-in-a-tree lair. To be fair to the Sydney funnel-web spider, most of the time, they’ll choose to pounce on passing beetles, cockroaches, snails and small frogs and lizards.
But, venom-wise, they’re capable of killing a human. Or rather, the venom of the male Sydney funnel-web spider has deadly venom. The female is a lot more chilled out. A bite from the male (their fangs can penetrate leather and fingernails) will leave you intoxicated by a deadly neurotoxin that will result in vomiting, breathing trouble, muscle spasms and drooling, all within ten to 30 minutes. Thankfully, there is an antivenom, but it’ll need to be administered pretty speedily.
If you’re unlucky enough to get shipwrecked, you might feel like your luck had changed if you then happened to be washed up on the shores of a beautiful dessert island. But not so, of you happened to be washed up on the shores of a beautiful dessert island that also happened to be home to a Komodo dragon or two.
Komodo dragons are both a) usually hungry and b) not fussy. They’ll eat pretty much anything that gets washed up on the shores of the island they inhabit, including relieved shipwrecked humans who incorrectly believe their luck has changed.
Averaging around 2.5 metres long (compared to the average height of a human being around 1.8 metres) they’re very large creatures. Plus, they can move extremely fast. Not good if you don’t have your wits about you. They also like to hang out in bushes and long grass, stealthily getting ready to pounce on unsuspecting washed up humans or other animals.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, Komodo dragons have razor sharp teeth and attack by injecting poisonous venom. This will then take about three days to kill you, after septicaemia sets in, causing a slow, painful death, ready for the Komodo dragon’s next meal. So, if you find yourself shipwrecked, try not to get washed up on an Indonesian island.
The king cobra quite rightly gets its Dangerous and Scary Animal crown, because it’s one of the most venomous snakes here on planet earth, so you really don’t want to bump into one in a dark alley. (Although that’s unlikely, as they live in rainforests mainly, as well as mangrove swamps and bamboo thickets in India, Southeast Asia and Southern China, but you get our point.)
We’ll get straight down to business ‘ these snakes kill by venom, and in one bite, they can deliver enough venom to kill 20 people. Or one elephant. When threatened, they will ‘stand up’ and could literally look you in the eye, whilst hissing (although it’s said that this sounds more like a growl) and flaring the hood around their heads. Oh, and they can grow up to 18 feet long.
Don’t be fooled by images of snake charmers seemingly with their king cobras under control in a basket. These snakes have usually had painful torture inflicted on them to make sure they don’t attack their charmers, going against their natural instinct.
Despite appearances though, king cobras are actually pretty shy animals, and will only attack, or threaten to attack, which is scary enough, when threatened. So it’s definitely best not to threaten this majestic beast!
When we think of bees, we tend to think of cute, furry, buzzy creatures, who are much more loved than their annoying buzzy counterparts, the picnic destroying wasp. But the Africanized bee is a different story, and is even more aggressive than a drowsy wasp at the end of summer.
Otherwise known as killer bees, the Africanized bee resides in the Americas (despite its name) and actually exists by accident. In the 1950s, scientists in Brazil bred the gentle, high yield honey producing European bee with the lower honey yield African bee in an attempt to improve honey production.
Unfortunately, the aggressive nature of the African bee won out, and then a year later, some of these hybrid bees escaped from the lab in what must’ve felt like some kind of apocalyptic film event.
They still exist in nature across North and South America now, breeding upon breeding, and they love to swarm. Swarms of 300,00 to 800,000 Africanized Bees have been reported and they will attack if they feel their colony is threatened. 1,000 stings from these human bred bees, and it could kill you.
Aside from looking majestic and elegant in the water, and then a bit of a mess if they end up on dry land, the box jellyfish has a deadly secret ‘ one sting and you could be in big trouble indeed. So-called due to its box shaped bell, this type of jellyfish has a series of short ‘pedaliums’ and hollow tentacles hanging from each of the four corners of its box, allowing it to move faster than most other species of jellyfish.
Most commonly found in the tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific Ocean, these jellyfish can also however be found in the waters of many of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Often touted as ‘the world’s most venomous creature’, the box jellyfish has killed 79 people in Australia alone (since records began), with around 20-40 box jellyfish related deaths each year in the Philippines.
The box jellyfish kills by venom, which passes through the skin and causes all of the cells of the body to become porous, allowing the delicate balance of fluids with the body to tip dangerously. This causes potassium to leak from the cellular fluid to the blood, causing a condition called hyperleukaemia which then causes the cardiovascular system to collapse and can lead to death within just two to five minutes.
Black widow spiders
Probably the most well-known, and most feared, of all the spider species, is the black widow spider. Found in temperate regions around the world, this spider is recognised by its red hourglass markings on its round, shiny black abdomen.
As is common in the natural world, the female of the species is more deadly than the male (as the song goes). These spiders have nasty venom, and if bitten, you can expect to experience nausea, muscle aches, weakness, chills, a fever and most terrifyingly, a paralysis of the diaphragm, making breathing very difficult indeed.
They don’t often bite humans unless provoked. But provoking can mean innocently putting on your shoe, that happens to have been board and lodgings for a black widow spider overnight. Or hauling old furniture you have stored in a garage and upsetting a black widow spider nest. So beware!
Surprisingly, despite accounts to the contrary, a bite from a black widow spider is unlikely to kill you, unless you’re very young, very old or very ill. However, it is true that the female black widow spider does, on accession, kill and eat her male mate after mating with him.
Faint-banded sea snake
As expected on this list of the world’s most dangerous animals, there’s one or two snakes here and the faint-banded sea snake is no exception. But we must point out, this snake is actually owed an apology.
In 1996, two authors, Ernst and Zug, published book called Snakes in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. In this book, the faint-banded sea snake was mistakenly categorised along with the hook nosed sea snake, a different species. Since then, the faint-banded sea snake has been presumed to be the most venomous snake in the word, when in fact, this isn’t true.
However, you still don’t want to find yourself alone with a faint-banded sea snake when they might be in a bad mood, because they’re still extremely venomous. Since they’re a water dwelling snake, the only reported victims have been Vietnamese fishermen. But if you’re in Vietnam and fancy a spot of fishing, keep this in mind!
Who doesn’t love a long, deep sleep? Well, be careful what you wish for, because one bite from the African tsetse fly and you may well be asleep for much longer than you bargained for.
The tsetse (pronounced ‘tetsee’) fly transmits one of the most dangerous parasites to humans, one that causes a tropical disease called African sleeping sickness (sometimes also called human African trypanosomiasis).
African sleeping sickness must be treated, otherwise it can prove fatal. Starting with a non-descript headache, fever and general muscle aches, you might put these symptoms down to anything from a cold to just feeling under the weather. But in time, you’ll become more and more exhausted and you’ll need to sleep pretty much all the time. Then you can expect to become a different person as the parasite takes over your mind and makes you uncoordinated and confused. What’s more, it can take years to kill you.
Parasitic diseases aside, a bite alone from the tsetse fly is a nasty experience. Unlike a bite from a mosquito (that we don’t always even notice), there’s no mistaking a tsetse bite. The mouth on this fly has small saw-like serrations that it uses to literally saw into your skin. Nice, huh?
Yep, we hear you. How on earth could a snail end up on a list of the world’s most dangerous animals? Surely the worst that can happen with a snail is a bit of a slime-ing? Well, it turns out, that the worst that can happen is actually pretty grim. Would you believe us if we said that freshwater snails kill more than 200,000 people a year? More than all the deaths caused by lions, wolves and sharks, combined?
You’d better believe us, because next time you go freshwater swimming in the tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Asia or Africa, it’ll pay to be aware.
The freshwater snails that reside in these waters carry a parasite that causes a disease called schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis is a deadly parasitic disease that causes a fever, diarrhoea, joint and muscle pain, pain in the stomach and a cough.
Spend time in water with freshwater snails and the chances are, the parasites will move from the snail to you. Small enough to penetrate your skin without you knowing, they then migrate to your blood vessels where they’ll happily stay for years, laying their eggs. And as if that isn’t gross enough, these eggs have sharp barbs on the outside allowing them to bury themselves into your tissues.
Around 10% of schistosomiasis infections results in death. So if you develop symptoms, no matter how long after visiting one of these areas of the world, its most definitely off to the docs you go.
German yellow jacket wasps
If you find wasps annoying, and you question the point of them, then you’re amongst friends. Wasps are annoying, frustrating and love to ruin an afternoon in a beer garden. But come across a German yellow jacket wasp and you’ll be wishing for the bog standard picnic bench dwelling wasp to return, all previous misdemeanours forgiven.
German yellow jacket wasps are bigger, more aggressive and more likely to sting than our usual wasps. In fact, they like to sting, repeatedly, for no apparent reason other than they want to spoil your day. Especially so in the late Summer, when they’ve become even more boisterous after feasting on rotting, fermenting fruits, causing them to become drunk.
Found pretty much everywhere aside from Antarctica, these wasps inject venom that can leave a nasty reaction, especially if you’re stung multiple times. If you happen to get close, you’ll distinguish this bigger wasp by the three black spots on its face.
Oh, and try to refrain from waving your arms around to bat a German yellow jacket wasp away ‘ it’ll make them think they’re under attack and will sting at will even more freely, calling their mates over in the process.
Hands up if you thought the last thing you’d see on this list of the world’s most dangerous animals, was a bird? Yep, we’re just as shocked as you are. The most dangerous thing about any birds we could think of, was a quick peck or a bird dropping ruining our hairstyle.
But the cassowary is an exception. The third largest bird on the planet (after the ostrich in first place and the emu in second), this endangered bird is flightless (but don’t let that fool you, they can run at 50 kph and jump two metres off the ground from standing) and resides in Australia.
Oh, and they love a fight. But not for no reason ‘ they’re not complete savages. They’ll only put up a fight if they feel threatened, and are very territorial and will protect their young fiercely. Their name comes from the Papuan words for horned (kasu) and head (weri) and it’s with this horned head, called a casque, along with their claws, that they fight.
Their casque stands at around 17 cm high and 15 cm long, and their dagger shaped middle claws can grow as long as 12 cm. So if you do happen across one, its best to walk on by and let that argument go.
Despite being the largest land dwelling animals on planet earth, elephants are usually seen as gentle, loving creatures who feel the pain and loss of losing loved ones like humans do, live in disciplined matriarchal family units and have bonds with human handlers like no other large animal.
Often depicted as the wise, gentle giants that everyone wants to be friends with in children’s stories, elephants can do no harm right? (Unless we happen to be in their way and we accidentally get trampled under-enormous-foot.)
Wrong! Surprisingly, between 100 and 500 humans are killed by elephants each year, usually when humans have overstepped the mark in elephant territories in their homelands of Africa and Asia.
It turns out, that getting trampled by an elephant might not be so accidental after all. We all have our limits, even elephants, and encroach on their patch too far, and you might get a trampling, or arguably worse, a goring.
It isn’t unheard of for elephants to raid villages or farmer-filled croplands. One blow is usually enough to do it. So the moral of this story is ‘ never annoy an elephant. Because as we all know, they’re unlikely to forget.
If the thought of a tapeworm residing inside you makes your skin crawl, then you’re not alone. It’s really not a nice thought, is it? The so-called ‘pork tapeworm’ is associated with eating pork that hasn’t been cooked properly or has been subject to questionable food hygiene practices. Yep, gross.
Even more gross is that fact that in order to be subject to a tapeworm infection, we don’t actually eat a tapeworm, we eat the cysts of a tapeworm, which is a sort of somewhere between a tapeworm larvae and an actual tapeworm. Tapeworm cysts are ‘inactive’ tapeworms just waiting to find their way into our gut, where they will wake up and grow into a full sized tapeworm.
This kind of tapeworm infection can hang around for years and cause no symptoms and it can be easily treated with medications to flush the tapeworm from the body. But things could be worse. A condition called cysticercosis is caused when young tapeworms, which have been consumed by eating food contaminated with tapeworm eggs (rather than cysts) from human faeces, bury into our tissues. They can bury into any tissue, including the brain. Which, is even more stomach churning than the thought of a tapeworm itself!