with animals can cause problems for the
traveller and any unnecessary contact with them should be avoided.
Many large mammals are easily capable of killing humans.
Few animals will pick a fight with humans but most will defend
themselves if cornered or surprised and females will defend their
young aggressively. When venturing into wildlife country on foot
be sure to take a guide who understands the local animals. Take
great care when walking through long grass or dense scrub which
could conceal a potentially dangerous animal.
Spotting big game in Africa
is one of the great travel adventures.
No matter where you go in sub-Saharan Africa, there are rules and
regulations you must follow when in the bush. Rules designed to
keep you and the animals alive. So follow the rules, just a few
of which include:
in the van, truck or 4WD Africa is not a zoo and its
animals will eat you. There have been too many terrible cases
of people getting out to try and grab the perfect photo. It
always ends badly.
your back this is more for those who undertake a walking
safari. The only thing that turns and runs in Africa is prey,
so lions will chase you.
your guide not every situation can be safe for you. If
your guide advises you to move on or back away, then do so.
voices down animals scare easily and you wouldnt
want to miss a pride of lions because you are too noisy.
predators that are dangerous to humans include; Polar Bears,
Grizzly Bears, Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Hyenas, Wolves and Crocodiles.
This list is not exhaustive as there are many other wild animals
that are best avoided.
carnivores cannot be outrun so are better faced. Try shouting,
throwing rocks or waving sticks which may confuse the animal and
make it back away. Running away is just what the prey would do and
could precipitate an attack. Be very careful when camping in big
cat country. Don't sleep in a tent with anything that may attract
a large creature, bears will rip open tents to get at the contents.
Lion attacks are a regular occurrence in African countries
such as Tanzania and Mozambique, where there is an ongoing tension
between lion and man over territory and livestock. There are as
many as 120 attacks a year in Tanzania alone, and three-quarters
of them are fatal. The attacks are not the work of so-called man-eaters
lions that have developed a taste for human flesh.
a lion will attack for the same reasons a bear will: to get
to food; to protect itself or its young; or because it has been
surprised. Like bears, lions for the most part want to avoid humans,
and for every attack there are uncounted confrontations that end
agreeably for both parties.
tips for lion safety are similar to those given to people travelling
in bear country: stay calm; assess the situation (Is the lion/bear
hungry? Scared? Defending its territory or its young?); stand your
ground dont run away and never turn your back on the
animal; make yourself larger by waving your arms and spreading your
legs; and, if the lion or bear attacks, fight like hell.
one major difference, however, in the abundance of online advice
about confronting bears and lions in the wild: Avoid eye contact
with a bear at all costs, but maintain it with a lion.
similarity: If the lion or bear has decided you are food, theres
pretty much nothing you can do to survive unless you are able to
outrun or outfight your attacker, or can get to safety up a tree
or in the safari jeep you probably never should have left in the
are many dangerous animals to be found roaming
freely in parts of Africa and Asia. As well
as the big cats, these include include rhinos, hippos, elephants
and (African) buffaloes which can be particularly aggressive.
Large primates like baboons and chimpanzees can be particularly
dangerous. It pays to be well informed when travelling into areas
where these animals are found. If you are going on a safari to a
game reserve, stay inside your vehicle when appropriate and always
follow the advice of your guide.
travelling close to rivers in Africa, South America and parts
of Australia beware of crocodiles which can be lurking in shallow
water near to the river bank.
Because we have so much contact with domestic animals, we
are much more likely to be injured by them than by wild animals.
Travellers have been injured by cats, dogs, cattle, pigs, camels,
water buffalo, elephants, etc. Be wary of any domestic animals you
do not know.
far the most common domestic animal responsible for attacks
on humans are dogs. Worldwide they are responsible for hundreds
of deaths annually. In
many countries they often run wild and may respond aggressively
If you are threatened by a dog pick up a stick and wave it
or some stones to throw at it or even pretend to if none are around.
Most dogs will retreat if they think you are armed.
Dog bites not only inflict severe injury but can also spread
dangerous infections like tetanus or even rabies.
Rabies is present worldwide
- except in the United Kingdom, parts of Scandinavia, Japan, Oceania,
Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Malta and some of the Caribbean
islands. It can be transmitted to humans in several ways, but most
commonly via the bite of an infected domestic dog. Rabies, if left
untreated, will always cause death!
Do not stroke dogs and cats
and avoid contact with bats, jackals, foxes and other wild animals.
Animals that appear unusually tame may be dying of rabies.
In an area endemic for rabies
all unprovoked bites or licks should be considered a possible exposure.
In the event of possible exposure
to rabies immediate treatment should be instigated:-
- Thorough cleansing of the wound
should be undertaken with soap or detergent and running water
for 5 minutes.
- Apply an antiseptic such as iodine,
chlorhexidine or alcohol.
- Seek medical assistance as soon
may be necessary to commence rabies vaccination and anti-tetanus
measures. If you have been immunised against rabies prior to being
bitten you may still require further doses of vaccine. Travellers
who have never been immunised against rabies and then receive a
suspect bite, should be vaccinated within 24-48 hours.
Most species of snakes are harmless and over half of the venomous
species do not have the capability or temperament to be harmful.
Even aggressive and venomous species will very often inflict a "dry
bite" which is venom free. Snakes do not like to waste their
venom on anything other than prey species. Remember, only one in
a thousand people bitten by a snake actually dies as a result. Most
deaths from snake bites occur on the Indian subcontinent where they
are often forced into contact with humans.
However, if you are bitten by a snake you should always be
assessed by an expert as it is often quite difficult for ordinary
travellers to distinguish between dangerous and harmless species.
species of snakes are found in many tropical and desert regions
and local inhabitants are occasionally bitten and sometimes killed
by them. Foreign travellers are rarely bitten.
Although snakes are found worldwide, the counties of the world
where travellers are most likely to encounter venomous snakes are
include; Australia, North, South and Central America, Africa, The
Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia.
you are bitten by a snake
- stay calm and get help
- immobilise the bitten limb
- avoid tampering with the
- remove any rings or jewellery
from the bitten limb
the bite at or below the level of the heart.
- apply a pressure bandage
firmly to the bite site and cover as much of the bitten
limb as possible
- get the victim to a hospital
or clinic for prompt treatment
- DON'T PANIC!
Snakes never attack without provocation,
they are generally shy and where possible, shun human contact. Avoid
disturbing, cornering or handling them.
Walking barefoot in vegetation, swimming in murky water and
climbing rocks and trees covered with foliage are all risky. At
night use a torch. Never tease a snake as teasing could cause the
snake to increase the dose of venom.
If you are bitten, move away from the snake to prevent additional
First aid for snakebite is controversial. The only universally
approved first aid applicable globally, is immobilisation of the
bitten area/limb and keeping the victim still. The victim should
then be transferred to a hospital or clinic for medical treatment
if available. This should involve the minimum of exertion by the
victim as possible.
venom travels primarily via the lymphatic system. Therefore,
to prevent the spread of venom the movement of lymph needs to be
restricted. This is achieved by immobilising the bitten area (usually
a limb), keeping it level with or just below the heart and by the
application of a pressure bandage.
You should NEVER apply a tourniquet to a snake bite. A tourniquet
is a tight band placed around a limb designed to restrict the blood
flow to and from the limb. Inappropriate use of tourniquets can
lead to unnecessary loss of the limb. A splinted bandage to immobilise
the limb can often be of more use. A suction device may be
used to help draw the venom out of the wound without making
Whilst moving the victim to get medical help, monitor their
vital signs i.e. pulse and rate of breathing. If there are signs
of shock, lay them flat, raise their feet and try to keep them warm.
Reassure them that bites can be effectively treated by trained
some areas where venomous snakes are endemic (such as Australia),
venom detection kits are often used by medical personnel. These
allow the site to be swabbed and a sample of venom collected which
is used to accurately identify the snake or group of snakes to which
the biter belongs to. This enables the use of more specific and
more effective antivenom. Washing the bite may remove traces of
venom that otherwise could be detected by the kit. However, these
kits are not always available to medical staff in poorer developing
countries so in this instance cleaning the wound thoroughly with
an antiseptic soap or solution would a good idea.
Medical treatment will
be greatly assisted if the snake can be accurately identified. If
the snake can be captured and/or killed without risk of anyone else
being bitten, take it to show the doctor at the treatment clinic.
Anti-venom when available should only be administered by those experienced
in its use.
you are travelling through areas where venomous snakes are
endemic and/or problems with them have been previously reported:-
walking around, make plenty of noise, wear boots or strong
shoes and long trousers, and watch where you step or place
under a mosquito net that is well tucked in.
sleep on the ground unless you are in a tent with a sewn
areas where snakes may be hiding -- under rocks, logs, etc.
ahead of you with a walking stick before entering an area
with an obscured view of your feet. Snakes will attempt
to avoid you if given adequate warning.
dark, always carry a torch.
you see a snake, keep your distance.
your common sense.
Spiders & Scorpions
Although most spiders are venomous,
very few species are able to penetrate human skin and inject venom.
Of those that can, only a few species in Australia and South America
cause neurotoxicity requiring specific anti venom treatment.
species of spider include:-
- The Black Widow which is
found in the Americas, Africa, southern Europe and warm parts
of Asia and Australia. The bite gives rise to painful muscle spasms
which can last up to two days.
- The Brown Recluse or Fiddle Spider
which is found in the Americas, North Africa and the Mediterranean.
Its bite can be fatal but deaths are rare. The bite which is initially
painless causes localised tissue death leading to severe scarring.
Deaths are rare.
- The Funnel Web mainly found
in south and eastern coastal regions of Australia (the Sydney
Funnel Web) and is a particularly nasty spider which is easily
capable of causing human fatalities. Antivenin exists.
- Huntsman Spiders or Banana Spiders
located in South America are quite aggressive and cause painful
bites but are rarely fatal.
- Wolf Spiders are mainly found
in South America but there is a European species. The bites cause
tissue death leading to scarring up to 20cm long. It is rarely
The vast majority of spider bites are non-fatal but some can
be very painful. Try to immobilise the affected limb and seek medical
assistance. Ice can be applied to the bite site and antihistamines
and pain killers may also be used to treat any symptoms.
Bites from the truly poisonous spiders such as Funnel Webs
(left) should be treated like snake bites and medical assistance
should be sought as soon as possible. The spider should be killed
and taken along to the doctor for identification. The spider bite
victim should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible
to the nearest place where they can be seen by a medically-trained
are usually found in arid regions. They like to hide in dark
shady places and sometimes they will hide inside your boots.
Therefore, you should always check your footwear before putting
them on in areas where scorpions are found.
They sting in self defense using their tail sting which in most
cases is very painful rather than life threatening. However, potentially
lethal scorpions do exist in Mexico, South America, The Caribbean,
North Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent which
can cause neurotoxicity with blurred vision and breathing difficulty,
myocardial damage and pancreatitis. Immediate medical help should
always be sought if bitten.
First aid for scorpion bites is similar to that of spider
bites. Wash the sting area and apply a cold compress. Immobilise
the the victim and seek rapid medical help. Antihistamines and painkillers
may be used to treat the pain and swelling. There are antivenins
available for the more dangerous species but these must be given