There are millions of different species of animals on the planet, but not all of them are safe to encounter in person. In fact, according to the National Geographic, approximately 60 million people are bitten by animals every year—over half of those cases are attributed to dogs and more than 250,000 people visit the emergency room each year due to animal attacks alone. While some animals cause accidents when they’re attempting to protect their territories, others have specific adaptations that make them dangerous, regardless of whether or not they’re provoked.
With fewer than 5,000 left in existence, it’s not likely you’ll ever encounter a tiger, but if you do, back away—and stay alert. These massive predators can run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and have teeth that are nearly four inches long. They may be big cats, but they still like to ambush their prey from behind before taking them down with a single powerful bite.
While shark attacks on humans are rare, they do happen. Though you might think you’d be safe swimming in a pool, sharks can and will enter these types of bodies of water. With sharp teeth designed for tearing apart prey, a human is no match for a shark’s pincers and rows of teeth. The stats don’t make good reading either; almost 30 people lose their lives to sharks every year.
When it comes to crocodiles, you can never be too careful. They are large, powerful animals that often act as they please. Crocodiles have been responsible for human fatalities worldwide – mainly due to humans getting too close for comfort. Their mouth is full of razor-sharp teeth and a bite from one can cause serious damage within seconds.
Despite their beauty, lions can be extremely dangerous. The king of beasts is not only a large and ferocious predator, but it is territorial and will kill just about anything that invades its territory. If you are ever confronted by a lion, keep your distance and use caution if he charges at you; they rarely want to engage with humans once they reach adulthood but will attack if threatened.
While snakes are terrifying, and it’s true that a number of species can be lethal, only about 25% of all snakes have venom strong enough to harm humans. The first thing you should do if you encounter a snake is stand still—even if it means coiling your body into as tight a ball as possible.
An elephant is one of Earth’s most powerful and intelligent animals. They live in groups called herds that range from two to more than 20 individuals, led by an older female known as a matriarch. At birth, baby elephants are about 2 feet tall and weigh around 100 pounds; they typically grow 8 inches a year until they reach their full height of 13 feet at around 16 years old.
A person is stung by a single Asian giant hornet, an aggressive species of social wasp native to Eastern Asia, and dies within minutes. The Asian giant hornet is one of many dangerous animals on our list that come with a toxin for which there is no known antidote. Also known as Vespa mandarinia, it can grow up to 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) long—that’s about twice as big as your thumb!
The leopard is a strong climber and an agile jumper, known for its ability to leap 20 feet across rivers and ravines. While it usually preys on smaller animals like antelope and deer, it can easily kill a human being. Having long canine teeth that are designed for killing also makes them capable of biting through a person’s skull.
The spider is probably responsible for more deaths than any other animal on earth. While many are poisonous, it’s their bite that delivers a potent toxin into your system; they often bury themselves under leaves and wait for a tasty prey (you) to pass by. The black widow is common but you don’t need to worry about them unless you live where they do (the US and Canada). However, if you live in Australia or South America—keep an eye out for tarantulas.
This freshwater fish can be found in South America. These little fish are small enough for a grown adult to fit one into their mouth and big enough that they can sink a fishing boat if there are too many. Their teeth are razor sharp and their jaws can crunch through almost anything. They’re also very territorial, making them dangerous to swimmers who stray too close to their nests or ponds.