When survival is at stake, animals are all the same: they’re willing to cross any line to guarantee their longevity. Humans also act this way, but a lot smarter and more creatively, always finding new ways to survive longer and live a more comfortable life. Sometimes, our interests clash with other creatures’. After all, some animals feed off of us, while others just want to protect themselves.
Below we list 15 of the most dangerous animals to humans on the planet, some familiar, and some less so, as well as the habitat of these threatening creatures. What we learned from compiling this list is that, for the most part, it’s not the large predators, but the small creatures that are the most troubling.
1. Box Jellyfish
Behold the most venomous marine animal on the planet, the box jellyfish, which resides throughout the Indo-Pacific. You are the most likely to encounter this dangerous jelly on the western coast of Australia and the Philippines, where dozens of box jellyfish related deaths are reported each year, but there have also been known cases in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and even Galveston Island in the Gulf of Mexico.
What makes this jellyfish so dangerous? The numerous tentacles of this seemingly-ordinary jellyfish are lined with thousands of nematocysts, which are stinging cells filled with potent toxins that paralyze the heart, nervous system and skin almost instantly. An antidote to the venom exists, but in most cases, victims get paralyzed and drown, or die of heart failure on their way to the hospital. The rare survivors report suffering from extreme pain for weeks after the encounter and lifelong scarring.
The cassowary may be a graceful creature, but it’s also frequently called the most dangerous bird on the planet, probably because it’s very wary of humans and fights back when approached. The enormous flightless bird is native to the tropical forests of New Guinea, the Maluku Islands, East Nusa Tenggara, and Australia. One of the three species of the cassowary is the tallest bird on the planet. Cassowaries are considered endangered species, but you can frequently encounter this rather beautiful raptor in zoos around the world.
As mentioned before, the cassowary will not attack humans on its own, and the vast majority of these attacks are not fatal, with the last two cassowary-related deaths being reported in 1926 and 2019. The 2019 case is actually related to a captive cassowary, with his owner reportedly being clawed to death by the bird.
There are around 200 reported attacks each year, and all of them were the result of humans approaching the bird to feed it or people chasing, hitting or kicking the bird, so please don’t make any kind of contact with the bird if you happen to encounter it in the wild or in captivity.
3. Golden Poison Dart Frog
The golden poison dart frog is another endangered species, whose habitat diminished dramatically due to deforestation. The frog lives in the rain forests bordering the Pacific coast of Colombia, and its potent poison has been used by the indigenous Emberá people for hunting for centuries.
The frog is quite tiny, only 2 inches (5 cm) long. But don’t be fooled by its cheerful golden yellow color and tiny size, as the skin of this cute little frog is full of poison glands that activate immediately after you touch the frog. These glands produce a poison called batrachotoxin, with just a pin-sized amount of which is enough to kill a person.
In fact, there is enough poison in this tiny frog to kill 10 adult males, so if you’re planning a trip to Colombia and happen to encounter small bright-colored frogs, it’s best to admire them from distance.
4. Assassin Bugs
Compared to most bugs, these look quite adorable, don’t they? Well, it may be so, but these colorful insects are actually responsible for 12.000 deaths each year. Like many other insects that bite humans, assassin bugs carry disease, namely the protozoan called Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas disease, also known as trypanosomiasis.
These bugs typically bite humans in the face, particularly in the lips, while they are asleep, for which the bugs got one of their names – kissing bugs. The bite transports the parasite to the human’s blood, and in a matter of months, the infection can cause severe heart and intestinal problems, and even death. The bugs live throughout South America, Central America, and Mexico, as well as the southernmost regions of the US.
One would think that it’s not the hippo, but the more threatening looking savannah inhabitants like the lion or the rhinoceros which are the most dangerous. Alas, the clumsy-looking hippopotamus is the animal to be wary of on a safari, as they are quite aggressive and kill as many as 500 people every year.
For comparison, the number of lion-attack related deaths is 22 per year! Also, don’t think that a hippo cannot catch you if you happen to encounter an angry specimen. They run twice as fast as an average human, so your best bet of avoiding one would actually be to climb a nearby tree.