The good news: The world’s most dangerous animal is much easier to kill than a crocodile or hippo. The bad news: You might not notice it until you’ve already been bitten. These flying disease machines kill upwards of a million people per year, according to the World Health Organization. It’s actually a parasite carried by the mosquito that kills, rather than the mosquito itself, but once you have malaria, dengue fever or West Nile virus, you probably won’t want to split hairs when assigning blame. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers the most mosquito-related deaths.
4 Saltwater Crocodiles
Crocodiles are another animal that can move way faster than you might expect. The saltwater, or estuarine, is the largest type of crocodile and, along with Africa’s Nile crocodile, has the worst reputation for killing people. These scaly hunters inhabit Bangladesh, India, Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Australia. While the average saltwater croc measures around 13 feet, some surpass 20 feet and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. They hunt by lurking underwater and waiting. Once they see their chance, they jump out of the water, catch their prey and pull it under, where they drown and dismember it by doing a death roll.
Even more than elephants, hippos are extremely aggressive for vegetarians. They don’t want to eat you, but they wouldn’t mind overturning your boat, bellowing, then biting your head off. Many wildlife experts consider this four-ton sub-Saharan resident to be Africa’s most dangerous animal. They spend lazy days wallowing in the mud, but can move surprisingly swiftly in the water and surpass 18 miles per hour on land. Opinion seems to be split over the motives for their aggression. Some claim self-defense; others insist it’s the innate malice of hippokind.
Anup Shah/Photodisc/Getty Images
Compared with a venomous snake, most people don’t find elephants particularly scary. They’re intelligent, and some are even cultured. For example, Rama, an elephant at the Portland Zoo, is a serious painter, selling his work at higher prices than many local starving artists. Why rampage? But Rama’s cousins in Africa are tired of being pushed around by encroaching humans who harass them, shoot them for their tusks and generally come between elephants and their food supply. Increasingly elephants are fighting back. Turns out you don’t want to tick off a 13-foot-tall, 6-ton animal who can run up to 30 miles per hour. About 500 people a year die at the feet of elephants.
1 Carpet Vipers
Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images
In the competitive field of scariest snake, the carpet viper stands out for two reasons: most deaths-by-serpent and a slow, unpleasant death at that. These slitherers range from Senegal in West African to Bengal in India. In Nigeria’s savanna region, 10 percent of hospital beds might be occupied by the viper-bitten at any given moment. This viper’s venom decreases blood’s ability to clot, which means victims bleed. And bleed. And bleed. Carpet vipers kill about 10,000 people in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia annually.