Take a guess: which animal poses the biggest threat to humans? Sharks? Lions? Venomous snakes? Other humans? But in actuality, many of our assumptions about wild animals are misinformed. What we take for vicious savagery is a combination of misunderstood intentions and media sensationalism, and what we believe to be cute and cuddly may not always be the case. Read on to find out the real story behind infamous predators, because the most deadly animal of all might come as a surprise…
Sharks have a bad reputation, there’s no denying it. The media has portrayed them as vicious killers, widely publicising shark attacks and sensationalising the violence. The 1975 film ‘Jaws’ is a classic example: it only serves to reinforce this negative connotation about shark behaviour towards humans.
But the reality is, sharks pose very little threat to humans. In fact, most bites on humans are either a mistake, where the shark mistakes the human for actual prey like a seal, or an ‘exploratory bite’, where the shark is trying to determine if what it’s biting is edible. According to National Geographic Shark Attack Facts, you have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu during your lifetime. You have a 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark. Just to put things in perspective.
Following into a similar category of ‘ruthless blood-thirsty human hunter’, piranhas are another sea creature we’ve come to fear. The film ‘Piranha’ (originally made in 1978, and then remade in 2010) features a ‘Jaws’-like plot line – beach resort terrorized by savage underwater monster – and solidified the piranha’s dangerous reputation.
But again, it comes down to basic common sense: piranhas will leave you alone if you leave them alone. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, ‘the danger comes when the water level is low, prey is scarce, or you disturb its spawn buried in the riverbed—basically situations where the fish either feel really threatened or really hungry, and thus become more aggressive.’
Fat, lazy, even cute (thanks to Disney’s ‘Fantasia’’): hippos aren’t seen as particularly threatening at all. They spend most of their time submerged in rivers and lakes to stay cool – they are able to hold their breath underwater for five minutes.
However, hippos have a deadly side: they are said to kill more humans every year in Africa than any other animal. Hippos are known to charge if they feel threatened or startled and despite their rather ungainly appearance, they can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
Despite the fact that mosquitos are responsible for 725,000 deaths each year – even more than humans, which account for 415,000 deaths annually – the severity of their threat is not as widely known as, say, sharks. For more information on mosquitos, read Bill Gates’ blog post on the insect.