There’s a reason they warned you never to travel alone in the Amazon. As you go deeper into the rainforest, you start to feel like you’re being watched. Wait. Was that a roar? Soon you realize that this breathtaking scenery is home to other things that can take your breath away forever.
The Amazon is a huge and highly unexplored territory, five times larger than the state of Texas. 10% of Earth’s wildlife we know about inhabits this jungle. And if you aren’t careful, a lot of that wildlife could kill you. So today, we’ve put together a list of the animals considered to be the most dangerous out of the bunch. Whether you travel by foot, water or you’re sticking to the high ground, these predators have their eyes on you. What tiny creature could kill 20 people? How could running in a straight line save your life?
What predator can get you on land and water?
Number 5: Amazonian Giant Centipede (Scolopendra gigantea)
At 30 cm (12 in) long with a weight of 3 g (.10 oz), the Amazonian giant centipede is the largest centipede in the world. Its venom is so powerful it can immobilize prey 15 times its size. Fortunately for you, its favorite meals are rodents, lizards and bats. If you jam your foot in the wrong place it won’t hesitate to inject you with venom engineered to cause serious issues with your cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems. So look out below, watch your step and don’t forget a long pair of socks. Just in case.
Number 4: Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas)
You won’t need to go deep into the ocean to encounter these jaws. Bull sharks prefer shallow waters and can be found in rivers, dangerously close to human-populated areas. They’re not just found in the Amazon, either. Some encounters with humans originally attributed to great whites were actually the handiwork of bull sharks. Like the 1916 incidents along the Jersey Shore that killed four people in two weeks.
They have a nastier bite than that of a great white, and although they usually stick to turtles, oysters and even other bull sharks, if they are hungry enough anything goes. Including hippos. The good news is that these predators can’t follow you out of the water. The bad news is that the creature that awaits you at the top of our list could kill you in the water, on land, and even from above.
Number 3: Poison Dart Frogs
Also known as the most poisonous creature on Earth, this quarter-sized frog packs enough venom to kill 20 very full-sized people. The skin of the poison dart frog has attractive, bright colors but don’t even think about touching one. Venom is released through their skin, and a single stroke from your finger can result in heart failure within minutes. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon use this venom to make poison-infused-arrows by rolling an arrow tip over the frog’s skin. Just like that, they have a mortal weapon that will be potent for over two years.
If you want to survive in the Amazon, stay away from pretty-colored creatures.
Number 2: Black Caiman
This dangerous reptile reaches lengths of almost 5 m (16.4 ft) and can weigh 454 kg (1,000 lb). Once a black caiman latches onto you it’ll start to twist and thrash until you’re bleeding profusely but still possibly aware enough of the fact you’re being dragged toward the water where a drowning fate awaits. Nocturnal hunters, they know how to camouflage themselves. If you do see one don’t approach it. Instead, back away slowly and then try to run away in a straight line. In 2010, biologist Deise Nishimura was at the edge of her houseboat when a black caiman attacked. As the massive animal dragged her into the water, Nishimura located its eyes and nose and desperately squeezed as hard as she could. The reptile let Nishimura go and she survived, but not before she lost a leg to the Amazon’s largest predator.
Number 1: Jaguar (Panthera onca)
One predator the black caiman is worried about? The jaguar, which is known to ambush them from above. They’re usually found lurking on land, but if you think that you can’t be attacked by a jaguar in water, think again. Jaguars are remarkable swimmers, which makes them all that more dangerous. In 2010 while on a fishing trip, a 17-year-old boy was blindsided by a jaguar jumping from a ravine and straight onto his boat. The teen fell into the water with the jaguar’s jaws latched to his head. The ferocious cat wouldn’t let go until the boat’s skipper struck it with an iron pipe. The victim was left with deep gashes in his skull from the jaguar’s sharp fangs, requiring surgery to remove bone fragments from his brain tissue. If you find yourself face-to-face with a jaguar, raise your hands to appear bigger and slowly back away. Never turn your back on it. If it lunges, grab whatever you can and hit it in the head. Hard. You survived the most dangerous animals of the Amazon.
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- These Humans Survived Crocodile Attacks. Here Are 6 Ways You Can, Too. Shapiro, R. (2018). History.
- Biologist Subjects Himself to an Electric Eel Attack for Science. Buehler, J. (2017). Gizmodo.
- 2 weeks, 4 deaths, and the start of America’s fear of sharks. McCall, V. (2019). National Geographic.