How to survive attacks from the world's most dangerous animals
It's a good thing we have mighty brains, because humans are pretty useless in the face of danger when it comes to wild animals.
From lions on safari to sharks in the sea, and all those snakes and spiders in between, there are plenty of beasts on this planet that can harm you - and the best methods for defending yourself vary greatly according to which one you're dealing with.
Yawn or roar? Lounging around at the very top of the food chain, lions are pretty lazy most of the time but ferocious when they want to be
What to do: Make direct eye contact, and don’t break it. Back very slowly away. Never turn your back, never run. Lions will often do one or two mock charges before a full-on attack, running towards you but suddenly stopping a few paces away. If it does this, throw your arms out to make yourself look bigger and make as much noise as possible. Most often, this will make them reconsider and run off.
How they kill: A lion will get their jaws around your windpipe and suffocate you to death.
Recent kill: The leopard is a very solitary big cat that hunts alone, and can be very difficult to spot until you are far too close to it
What to do: Unlike with lions, never make direct eye contact. They will view this as a challenge. Stand very still. Leopards don’t always mock charge. If they come for you, as with a lion, make yourself look big and brave and make lots of noise.
How they kill: Suffocation, in the same grim manner as lions. They do this partly for a silent death, since if competing predators hear a kill, they will often try and steal it.
Don't be fooled: Elephants may appear to be slow and friendly - they aren’t - they're fast and easily infuriated
Dramatic moment elephant charges at hikers on safari
What to do: Stand your ground and pretend to be brave. The elephant will flap its ears aggressively and toot. Don’t move. It will almost always do one or two mock charges. Make yourself appear as big and loud and possible. Hope that works, then get downwind if possible so the others can't smell you.
How they kill: An elephant gores its victim with its tusks and tramples them to death.
Don't mess: Found in herds of up to several thousand, buffalo possess the build of a cow but the disposition of a perpetually furious bull - and they don’t flee from a threat like most prey animals, they turn and fight
What to do: Run like the wind and accept almost certain defeat. Buffalo don’t mock charge. They give no warning at all. You'll never outrun a buffalo, nor survive them in combat, so your only option is to get a head start and climb a tree.
How they kill: As with an elephant, it will gore you with its horns and trample you into an early grave.
Open wide: Hippos are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other wild animal by far - what you really don’t want to do is to get between a hippo and its body of water, it will see this as a direct threat
What to do: Hippos can reach running speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, so it will catch you every time. Still, your best bet is to sprint to the closest cover or climb a tree.
How they kill: Its jaws and teeth somewhat resemble a giant hole punch, and a hippo won’t do the decent thing and bite off your head, it will go for your mid-section and bite you clean in half.
African Wild Dogs
Light lunch: These dogs hunt in large packs, and they are vicious and formidable - once they’ve singled out a victim, their success rate is around 80 percent, a lion’s success rate being only around 30 percent
What to do: Say your prayers. You can’t outrun them, intimidate them or fight back. But do know that they aren't generally interested in attacking humans.
How they kill: Savagely, but relatively fast. Wild Dogs are unusual in that they won’t kill you first, they will eat you alive, disembowelling you first. The good news is that they work quickly and their victim is usually dead within a minute.
Don't paws! It's rare for a domestic dog to attack a human, but they can be bred and trained to do so, and when they are they're very effective at it
What to do: Running is not an option, you'll have to stand and fight, literally. Close your hands into a fist - you'll probably do this instinctively anyway. Shout at the dog authoritatively but don't make eye contact. Kick and punch it; and if it rolls you to the ground, protect your throat and back of your neck with your arms, then when you get the chance, aim to jab it in the eye.
How they kill: Generally by puncturing an artery, causing the victim to bleed to death.
What to do: Sharks will generally only approach you out of curiosity, or if it mistakes you for a seal in distress. So don't thrash about. But it’s probably too late for that. If at all possible, punch it in the nose with all your might. It’s the most sensitive part of its body and might lead it to swim away defeated. Remember though, only an average of four fatal great white attacks take place each year worldwide.
How they kill: This death is catastrophic. A shark probably won’t bother killing you because they aren't fond of the taste of humans. Most commonly they will take a chunk out of your thigh or abdomen, and if that severs an artery you’ll bleed out.
Care for a swim? Comfortably the world’s largest reptile, the crocodile is an extremely successful predator that reportedly kills on average 2,500 people a year
What to do: You have zero options if a crocodile ambushes you from a riverbank, unless it happens to miss, in which case run away before it goes for round two. If you see one on land, it's unlikely to approach, but if it does, again, run away - not in zig-zags as the common myth dictates. Crocodiles can only reach ten miles an hour on foot.
How they kill: This is about as bad as it gets. Because they can’t chew, crocodiles bite down hard on their prey then spin it round to tear chunks of flesh off, which they gulp down whole - and they don't care that you're not dead yet. Incidentally, they are far more likely to attack humans than alligators are.
What to do: Don't climb a tree, for obvious reasons. Don't run either, bears are fast. And don't yell at it, it will spook the bear into believing it is threatened. As hard as it seems, try at least to appear calm, slowly extend your arms to make yourself bigger, speak to it in a low voice to identify yourself as human, and shuffle gradually away to show you're retreating.
How they kill: Bears generally maul their victims to death - as anyone who's seen The Revenant will know - especially since they're not attacking you to eat you, they're doing it because you've enraged them.
There are countless snake varieties and only some of them venomous, but they're almost always shy and avoiding of humans
What to do: If you come across a snake, back away slowly and change your course. If it looks like it's following you, stamp on the ground to make vibrations in the ground, which should drive it away. If you are bitten, bring your affected body part down lower than your heart to slow the flow of venom in your bloodstream (if it's a limb) and get to the nearest hospital. Try and remember, or better still photograph, the snake so doctors can faster identify which anti-venom you need.
How they kill: The formula of snake victim is different for every breed, but either it will shut your heart down, paralyse your muscles or clot your blood so thick it will stop flowing. Charming.
Stuff of nightmares: There are about 40,000 types of spiders in the world, living on every continent except Antarctica, and it's hard to distinguish which are poisonous to us
How to survive: Most of the time, by the time you've realized a spider has attacked you, it's all over, so escaping is redundant. But treat the bite by washing with soap and water, applying a cold compress, and then seeking fast medical attention.
How they kill: As with snakes, their venom varies but you can guarantee it will be unpleasant.