Below is our list of the seven most dangerous animals in Africa, based on the estimated number of human fatalities they have caused. With some of these examples, exact numbers were hard to obtain since most of the attacks and resultant fatalities happen in remote parts of Africa.
7. The Desert Locusts
It may surprise you to know that insects are also considered to be animals! The definition of an animal, in several dictionaries, is as follows: “a living organism characterized by voluntary movement”, so the Locust definitely fits the bill! Although they do not kill humans directly, the devastation they cause to crops has a direct effect on humans and therefore they warrant a slot in Africa’s top 7 most dangerous animals.
The Desert Locust is one of about a dozen species of short-horned grasshoppers that are known to change their behaviour when prevailing conditions are good, such as after particularly good rains when larger than average crops are expected. They form enormous swarms of adults, or bands of hoppers (wingless nymphs) which spread over a vast area.
The last major Locust plague occurred in the summer of 2004 in West and North Africa, when swarms migrated over the continent causing mass devastation. Large parts of Mali, Niger, Sudan and Mauritania were affected, as well as Morocco and Algeria, once the swarms reached North Africa. It was also the first time in over 50 years that Egypt, Jordan and Israel were affected.
The sheer magnitude of the swarms is staggering – one swarm in Morocco, between Tarfaya and Tan-Tan was 230km long and at least 150m wide and it is estimated that it was made up of over 69 billion individual locusts. Although they form a major food resource for over 30 bird species, you need a lot of birds to make any in-roads on such a huge swarm and all crops as well as other vegetation (tree foliage, grass, reeds and more) in their path were totally destroyed, causing enormous challenges to food security in West Africa, and to a lesser extent in North Africa.
It is estimated that the costs of fighting this scourge could have exceeded US $400 million, and harvest losses were estimated at US $2,5 billion. Without international Aid many Africans would have died of starvation, as well as thousands of animals which were left without grazing.
Below is a short video showing swarms of locusts out on the rampage destroying vegetation in their paths
The most famous incident of man-eating Lions occurred during the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railroad in 1898. For reasons that have never been fully understood or explained, a pair of mane-less male Lions known as the Tsavo Man-Eaters started attacking the railway workers and killed several over a nine-month period, until they were both shot. Lion do not normally attack humans, but occasionally something causes some animals (usually males) to start seeking out human prey.
Several studies have been conducted into this behaviour, but the causes are still under debate! One suggestion is that old Lions who are no longer part of a hunting pack will turn to human prey when they can no longer chase faster animals; another suggestion is that a Rinderpest epidemic (cattle plague) wiped out many of the Lion’s usual prey and they were then forced to seek alternative food. However it came about, human flesh then became an integral part of the Lions’ regular diet and was actively sought-out.
This could explain the Tanzanian incident, where over 563 people in a large village were attacked, and many were eaten by Lions over a 15 year period; a number far exceeding the earlier Tsavo incidents.
African Crocodiles have extremely powerful jaws that clamp shut with an incredible force of 3,700 pounds per square inch, which is about 4 times the strength a Hyena can muster! So it comes as no surprise that humans stand very little chance of surviving a crocodile attack. The two species that are responsible for most Crocodile attacks in Africa are the Nile Crocodile and the Saltwater Crocodile, and hundreds of attacks are reported each year. Many more probably go unreported because they occur in very remote regions, and it is difficult to get accurate data of the actual number of people killed by Crocs on an annual basis.
In 2004 a legendary 5mt Croc named Gustave terrorised villagers in Barundi, where he killed so many humans that it was feared that he was doing the killing for fun, not food... It is now thought that he developed a taste for human flesh from the many bodies that found their way into the waterways in the strife-torn country, but Crocodile attacks on humans are common not only in Africa but also in many other countries such as India and Australia. Crocodile attacks are fiercely vicious and very quick – generally over in a few seconds, as the prey is clamped between those incredible jaws and then dragged under water and drowned.
As Africa’s largest land animal, Elephants are among the Continent’s most potentially dangerous animals. Their huge size makes them capable of crushing and killing any other land animal, including Lions, and humans are also at risk.
Adult male Elephants go through a period of being “on musth”, which means they are sexually aroused and very aggressive – an elephant on musth is an elephant to avoid at all costs, as they can react completely out of character. A tell-tale sign to look out for is a discharge from the temporal ducts on the side of the Elephants head.
Elephant have been known to suddenly attack cars and nonchalantly roll them over or toss them aside inside game reserves; however, these are isolated incidents and usually occur because thoughtless tourists try and get too close to a bull in musth, causing the Elephant to defend his territory. It is also extremely unwise to get too close to a herd with babies – just like Humans, Elephants will protect their young at all costs!
The saying goes that an elephant never forgets, and this may explain an incident that occurred in Africa where some young elephants attacked specific villages in what is believed to have been a revenge mission for the massive culling that took place on their herds in the 1970 -80’s.
The African or Cape Buffalo, one of the Big Five, is one of the few animals on the continent that will actively stalk and kill humans if they have been wounded. This huge animal demands respect from nearly all the other animals in Africa, including Lion, and their only real predator is man.
Buffalo are still widely pursued by trophy hunters in many parts of Africa, and many hunters are killed or injured if they do not bring this majestic animal down with one shot; the hunter becomes the hunted, and things can get messy. There are few statistics to show how many people get killed each year by Buffalo, but there have also been incidents where people have been injured or killed when they surprise a Buffalo in the bush, and this is no-doubt a common and unreported occurrence in remote parts of Africa.
These docile-looking creatures appear to be sloppy, slow and sluggish, but do not be fooled by their appearance, as they are at number 2 on the Most Dangerous list! Hippo can easily outrun humans and their enormous incisors are capable of biting a human in half. Usually humans are attacked if they are perceived to be a threat to either the Hippos territory or young, but there have been occasions where Hippo have gone on the rampage and attacked people when invading farmland in remote parts of Africa.
Coming in at number one, the Mosquito is the most dangerous animal in Africa and is responsible for nearly 50% of deaths in children under the age of 5. This miniscule insect carries the virus that causes Malaria, one of the world’s deadliest diseases.
Some stunning Facts about Malaria::
- Malaria kills more than 2,800 children a day in Africa. According to Third World Network Features, direct and indirect costs of Malaria amounted to US $800 million in 1987 and were expected to reach US $1.8 billion annually in Africa by 1995.
- 80 -90% of Malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa where 90% of the infected people live.
- Malaria is not confined to Africa; in Brazil the disease kills over 8,000 people a year, more than deaths from AIDS and Cholera combined!
- Some good news! There is a Malaria vaccine on the horizon which should be able to reduce deaths from this disease by up to 75% in future generations - it is hoped that the vaccine will be ready to be launched in 2015.