No. 10 : The Bear
Forget gentle Ben – when a bear rears on its hind legs you know you’re in trouble. Although bears have a fearsome reputation, you are statistically more likely to survive a bear attack than to perish, but that’s small consolation to those who are faced with a bristling bear. With five attacks in Canada in 2005 alone, it seems that they’re on the increase due to human destruction of, and encroachment on, bears’ natural habitat.
Responsible for: An estimated 5-10 fatalities a year.
No 9: The shark
Sharks have a terrible reputation thanks to films such as Jaws and Deep Blue Sea, but it’s one not entirely without cause. It seems that although great whites are often blamed for unprovoked attacks on humans, it is more likely to be down to those snappy bull sharks, who are very aggressive. Out of 360 species, only four are known killers: tiger, great white, oceanic whitetip and bull sharks. However, as we’ve seen with bears, although there are a high number of shark attacks, actual fatalities are fairly low.
Responsible for: An estimated 100 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Florida, Australia, Hawaii and South Africa.
No 8: Jellyfish
The sting-masters of the sea, Jellyfish are usually passive drifters who use their tentacles to dredge up small prey. However, anyone who becomes entangled with a jellyfish will experience degrees of pain from a nasty nip to excruciating pain, depending on the species. The box jellyfish is one of the most venomous marine creatures in the world; a sting can kill a man within minutes and most fatalities occur following a brush with a toxic jelly like this.
Responsible for: An estimated 100 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
No 7: The hippopotamus
At first glance, these wallowing river-horses appear to be bulky, lazy beasts and not the fearsome predators you would expect to have a habit of mauling humans. However, with gaping mouths that can open four feet wide and swinging sledgehammer heads, as well as the fact that they can outrun us on land, these highly aggressive animals have plenty of scope for destruction and are considered one of the most dangerous of African animals.
Responsible for: An estimated 100-150 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Lakes, rivers, wallows – in fact any water – in Africa.
No 6: The elephant
Despite their friendly and approachable image thanks to zoo feeding times, these herbivores kill an alarming amount of people every year. Elephants are unpredictable creatures, and have been known to kill zookeepers who have been with them for as long as 15 years. It is recorded that even the tamest of elephants can attack without warning, though it is thought that most elephants do not realise the harm they do with almost no effort.
Responsible for: An estimated 300-500 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Africa and India.
No 5: The crocodile
Crocodiles are dreaded prehistoric creatures capable of wreaking a terrible punishment on puny human flesh. North American, Estuarine and Nile crocodiles are the most dangerous and probably kill more people yearly than figures show due to the isolated areas where attacks are likely to take place and distance from help. One meal will keep a crocodile sated for a good while, so they like to wait in the water for the perfect time to strike.
Responsible for: An estimated 600-800 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Africa and Australia.
No 4: Big cats
These big cats certainly mean business. With destruction of their natural habitat and a decline in prey species, particularly concerning the tiger and North American mountain lion or cougar, attacks on humans are increasing. The African lion is the biggest and most feared of big cats, but holidaymakers on safari are 100 per cent safe viewing from a vehicle, unless they decide to take a closer look and step down. Mountain lions are found in many national parks and are responsible for six attacks a year in the US and Canada.
Responsible for: An estimated 800 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Africa, North America and India.
No 3: The scorpion
Highly deadly and twice as ugly, the scorpion is a nasty critter that is probably responsible for more deaths per year than recorded, due to the isolated places they hang out and probable lack of access to antivenin. However, out of an estimated 1,500 species of scorpion worldwide, only around 25 are regarded dangerous.
Responsible for: An estimated 800-2,000 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Worldwide; particularly Africa, the Americas and Central Asia.
No 2: The venomous snake
Though there are more than 2,000 species of snake, 450 of which are venomous, only 250 are capable of killing a man. That’s little consolation to the thousands who meet a nasty death due to snake bites each year – it’s usually members of local populations who bear the brunt as they live and work where snakes inhabit and usually wear no protective gear.
Responsible for: An estimated 50-125,000 fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Africa, Asia and North America.
Method of dispatch: Snakes are very fast and any part of the human body is a good place for a bite, seeing as the venom can flow into the bloodstream within minutes; although those near major veins and arteries will travel faster. Snakes use their venom to paralyse their prey. A fully grown king cobra can rear up so it looks a man in the eye; others can spit venom into the eye. Nasty.
Useful avoidance techniques: Unsurprisingly, most people come a cropper when they try to harass a snake or draw close to it. Snakes will usually only attack if they’re feeling threatened so the short answer is: stay away! Wear stout boots if hiking and check either side of paths. Don’t mess about looking under rocks or fallen vegetation as you’ll get more than you bargained for. If you come across a snake, back away very slowly, as it can strike to half its length and sudden movements are likely to alarm it.
No 1: The mosquito
Yes, the humble mosquito. What we Brits regard as an annoying pest is actually the most dangerous creature on the planet, thanks to its ability to spread disease with alarming efficiency. Best known for spreading deadly malaria, mossies also spread elephantiasis, yellow fever, dengue fever and West Nile virus, which was recently introduced to the US and is now prevalent in all states.
Responsible for: An estimated 2-3 million fatalities a year.
Hangs out in: Worldwide; harmful in Africa, Asia and North America.