The lion is the largest and most bountiful of the large cats in Africa, and perhaps the most dangerous. They are found throughout the country, except to the deserts of the north. Cheetahs are the fastest land creature in the world, and are found primarily on the grasslands and savannas of Africa where they can make use of their incredible speed to hunt. Leopards and panthers, like the lion, are found throughout Africa, in the dense jungles as well as the wide open grasslands.
In most cases large cats will avoid humans, however the smell of blood will attract their curiosity. If a large cat has been wounded, or frightened it will become very aggressive, and even more so if it is protecting its young.
Elephants are usually not a threat, many tribes use them for labor, some use them for transportation. The elephant is most often scene as a gentle giant, this is not always true. An enraged elephant, especially a bull is almost unstoppable. Its massive size and weight, its tremendous charging speed, and its large tusks can do tremendous amounts of damage.
A rhino is more aggressive than the elephant, and much faster. Most often if left alone they pose no threat, but they have been known to attack for no apparent reason. There are numerous accounts of Rhinoceros attacks on moving vehicles, charging them again and again. Fire also attracts them, and a myth proliferates that if a rhinoceros smells or sees a fire it will charge a camp and stomp out the fire to put it out.
Hippos are quite possibly the most dangerous animal in Africa, and they carry the largest death toll of any mammal on the continent. They have a misguided reputation of being gentle, when in reality they are the most aggressive animal to be found. Their enormous bodies contain great power, and their huge powerful jaws can crush bone easily. They are most deadly in the water, and are known to attack and capsize small boats. If you are caught in a hippos jaws in the water it will drag you to the bottom and hold you there until you drown. When traveling by river always be very cautious of hippopotami, especially at night.
The largest of the apes is the mountain gorilla, found in the jungle highlands. Like its slightly smaller cousin the lowland gorilla, most will not attack unless provoked. However if the animal feels you are a threat he will charge. An enraged gorillas powerful arms and amazing agility and ferocity make it very dangerous indeed. Like humans a gorillas mood is a hard thing to judge, but unless you are threatening its young, or invading its territory they are fairly docile. Chimpanzees however can be very aggressive, and while only the adults are generally large enough to be considered dangerous caution should be taken. An adult chimpanzee is at least as large as a man, and several times stronger. Their are tribes of chimps that are documented carnivores and they hunt in organized parties. Although they usually only eat smaller monkeys and occasionally other trespassing chimps even the meat eating chimps have a primarily vegetarian diet. Where gorillas and chimpanzees stick pretty much to the lush dense jungles the baboon operates on the wide open grasslands and savannas, and is sometimes seen on the outskirts of the deserts as well. Baboons are partial to fruit, but they also eat meat, and while attacks on humans are rare they do occasionally occur. Attacks on humans generally only occur when the animal is provoked, however during times of extreme drought they have been documented to attack and kill humans without cause. Baboons move and hunt in large packs.
Africa is home to some of the most venomous snakes on earth, including both green and black mambas, the puff adder and its cousin the death adder, the gabon viper, several species of cobra and asp, and many others. While conservationists will emphasize again and again that these snakes will leave you alone if you leave them alone, the simple reality is that in most cases you will not be aware of the snake it already feels you have threatened it, and by then it is too late. Some species, like the mamba are even overly aggressive and will attack and even chase a human. In any case a bite from a venomous snake in Africa will usually result in death, as appropriate medical care is usually too far away, and carrying antivenin for every snake that might be encountered is impossible. Exercise extreme caution around snakes. Of course there are more non venomous snakes than there are venomous, including several large species of python. Another dangerous reptile in Africa is the crocodile, found mostly along the Nile river in Egypt. While the crocodile is not generally viewed as a major threat they have been known to attack swimmers and bathers.
Most insects are harmless, however the number one and two killers in Africa belong to the insect kingdom. The mosquito, which carries malaria and other diseases has killed more people in africa than any other creature, it is strongly advised that travelers use insect repellent. The second deadliest creature is the Tsetse fly, whose bite carries trypanosomiasis. The tsetse fly is found in the tropical areas of Africa. Rhodesian Trypanosomiasis is a lethal disease, symptoms begin about two weeks after the bite when an inflammation of the skin appears at the site of the bite. Fever develops soon after, accompanied by rashes, enlarged and painful lymph nodes, and anemia. Later mental depression, tremors in the arms and legs, loss of hunger, slurred speech, and increasing amounts of sleep to such a point that in the end periods the person is almost always sleeping. Then death occurs. Gambian Trypanosomiasis starts 6 month to years after the initial bite and develops very slowly, often making it harder to diagnose. Drugs used to treat the disease are highly toxic and must be administered with caution. If the disease is caught early the chances for survival are good, however if untreated or if treatment is started late irreversible brain damage and death is common. In to these insects, the African killer bee is to be avoided at all costs, and the african fire ant has killed as well. While not insects per se, there are several venomous spiders and scorpions in Africa as well.
Written by Deric "D" Bernier.