Humans are currently on top of the world’s food chain, but we should not let our dominant status lull us into a false sense of security. It’s still a jungle out there and this has been so since time immemorial. Our genes still carry the genetic memory of fear of huge animals, probably left over from the times our ancestors were chased by sabre-toothed cats and wolves. On the other side many animals out there still carry the genetic memory of feasting on some of our unfortunate predecessors.
Let’s also not forget, most of the animals we see are either the ones on our plate or the ones we domesticate. Many animals out there still have the wild in them. So what are the top 10 animals that kill humans?
There are only eight species of bears in the world and all of them can kill humans. Forget the cuddly teddy bears you used to have as a child, real bears are huge hulks of muscle, teeth and claws. They can run fast and have surprised many campers because they can climb up trees fast too. Bears do not go out of their way to attack humans but will also not think twice about charging a human who trespasses on their territory or threatens their young. An average of five to 10 people a year are killed in encounters with bears.
Around 75 people around the world are attacked by sharks each year. Of that number an average of five to 10 of these attacks are fatal. The species of shark held responsible for most attacks is the Great White Shark which ranges in habitat from the coastlines of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, California to Alaska, the east coast and the gulf coast of the U.S.A., Hawaii, South America, the Mediterranean Sea, West Africa to Scandinavia, Japan and the eastern coastline of China and southern Russia. Coming in second in terms of attacks on humans is the tiger shark followed by the bull shark. Those seeking to protect sharks from overfishing by humans still insist the chances of people getting killed by a shark are overall still less than their chances of dying in a plane crash or getting hit by lightning.
19 Cape Buffalo
Cape buffalos are quite heavy, weighing in at 1.5 tons and, stand tall at 1.7 meters high and approximately 2.8 meters long. When these animals feel that they are in danger they attack head on, using their extremely sharp horns. Most animals will keep away, humans on the other hand are the only predator that the Cape Buffalo will come across. Statistically Cape buffalo are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other large animal.
Every year millions of people swim in the sea, the domain of the jellyfish. Every year about a hundred or so people die from jellyfish stings. Currently the most dangerous species to humans is the box jellyfish of Australia, its tentacles have stingers that can pump venom into human skin, causing pain and discomfort at first. Fever and death usually follows. Unfortunately for humans poisonous jellyfish do not invade beaches all year round, they are seasonal creatures. However, when they are around and in large numbers local lifeguard services usually close off beaches.
While deer have antlers that can fatally gore a man, most deaths caused by deer are due to accidents on the highways. Deer that cross highways are often transfixed by vehicle headlights and freeze in place, this often leads to collisions along lonely stretches of highway in the U.S. and other parts of the world where there are deer. It is estimated 120 people are killed by deer every year.
These docile-looking water-going mammals are actually very vicious when provoked, marking territory or defending their young. Initially thought of as vegetarians, scientists were shocked to see them munch on meat when the situation was dire. They have also filmed a hippo eating crocodiles killed from territorial disputes and also another one feasting on an antelope stolen away from a crocodile. Hippos have huge incisors that can fatally gore other animals and humans. While they are bred for the water, they have no problems on land and have been known to run up to 30 miles per hour pursuing enemies, even outrunning humans. The biggest of them can grow up to weigh around three tons. In Africa it is estimated that some 2,900 people a year are killed by hippos.
These beasts can grow up to terrifying lengths. The biggest living crocodile in captivity is an 18-footer in Australia, although the biggest ever caught was a 20-foot saltwater crocodile caught in the Philippines that died last February. What makes these things so dangerous? They are ambush masters in the water. A variety of colors lets them blend into their natural environment; they are able hold their breath for hours and swim silently underwater up to their unsuspecting prey. On land they may only be capable of sudden bursts of speed, but in the water they can move with lightning-quick reflexes and grab then drag prey under. An estimated 1,000 people are killed by crocodiles each year, most of them fishermen and people living beside huge rivers.
Scorpions are among the oldest creatures to ever live on earth. Thought by scientists to have evolved from sea-dwelling creatures that went on land, the scorpion has taken to land quite nicely, given that it has had millions of years to evolve and adapt. Today there are about between 1,300 to 2,000 different species of scorpions, but only 25 have a poison that is deadly to humans. However, not all scorpion stings are a guarantee of death. Some poisons just cause extreme discomfort and fever in the hardiest of humans, but others may experience paralysis, convulsions and cardiac arrest. Around 1,000 to 5,000 people are killed by scorpions every year.
Snakes are blamed for an average of 50,000 kills a year around the world. While there are the occasional fatal bites on professional snake handlers, snake charmers and others involved in the herpetological business or studies, most deaths are from bites of snakes feeling threatened by human presence and activity. On top of the killer list is the Indian cobra. With many cities in India expanding into land that used to be jungles, snakes have been forced to deal with ever-encroaching human population and activity.
It is estimated that between 660,000 to 1,000,000 people each year are killed by the diseases mosquitoes carry. These diseases range from malaria to dengue and many are often fatal if not treated immediately. Mosquitoes are present in all countries in the world, they are even known to survive in harsh environments like volcanic craters and arctic regions. Mosquitoes have also been around for millions of years and are not going anywhere anytime soon.