The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world, occupying an area shared by nine countries — Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. In fact, it is so large that it represents half of the remaining rainforests on Earth. It is an amazing natural sanctuary, home to unique plants and roughly 16,000 species of animals, many of which cannot be found in other parts of the world. Some scientists even say that there is a new species of animal discovered in the Amazon rainforest every 3 days!
All of these animals are fascinating in their own ways, well-adapted to life in the rainforest, and most of them are a joy to photograph and even to simply behold. Some of them, however, should be left alone — for your own safety. In fact, you should be careful not even to get close to them. Below are the fifteen most dangerous animals in the Amazon rainforest.
1. Green Anaconda
Growing over 30 feet (9 meters) long and weighing over 500 pounds (227 kilograms), the green anaconda is the world’s largest snake and it lurks in the Amazon River, lying in wait for prey. Because of its size, the green anaconda is awkward on land, but in the water it can move stealthily and quickly, striking at anything it knows it can overpower — jaguars, caimans, wild pigs, deer and even humans, especially children. It coils its body around its prey and drags it into the water, suffocating it within minutes, and then swallows it whole with its large jaws. The good thing about green anacondas? They do not eat often, with a big meal able to last them months, so if they’re not hungry, you’re safe. If they are… you better run.
2. Black Caiman
The black caiman is one of the largest alligators in the world and one of the most fearsome predators in the Amazon rainforest. It does not hesitate to eat any other animal in the Amazon — whether monkeys, sloths, piranhas, wild pigs, giant otters, dogs, anacondas or other caimans. With their powerful jaws, they grab their prey and drown it, swallowing it whole whenever possible. If it is too big, they wait for it to rot a little then bite it into smaller chunks. Several attacks on humans have been recorded, although humans are usually only at risk from individuals over 13 feet (4 meters) long — the black caiman can grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) long.
3. Electric Eel
Imagine an animal that can generate five times more electricity than the standard wall socket and you have the electric eel. This fish, which isn’t actually an eel, has three unique organs that work together to generate electricity. Often, it uses small amounts of electricity to stun its prey before swallowing it whole, but when threatened, it can release the electricity in larger amounts and can keep on releasing it for minutes at a time until it is depleted. Many humans have suffered shocks from electric eels, often while accidentally stumbling upon them, though they rarely die. Often, death only occurs with multiple shocks or when the victim is too paralyzed to move and ends up drowning.
Jaguars are the third largest cats in the world and the largest in South America. Like most cats, they are solitary, with both males and females hunting, particularly at dawn and dusk, feeding on deer, wild pigs, sloths, monkeys, snakes and livestock. While jaguars are the least likely of the big cats to attack humans — in fact, human attacks are rare — this big cat is still one you should be wary of. Jaguars, after all, have the most powerful bite among cats, and their sharp teeth are able to pierce through the thick armor of their prey, such as armadillos and turtles, as well as through skulls, directly piercing the brain. They can also dislocate necks with their strong jaws.
5. Red-Bellied Piranha
The red-bellied piranha is preceded by its fearsome reputation. Most of us know them as fish that can tear the flesh off bones in a matter of seconds. This, however, isn’t necessarily true. Red-bellied piranhas are mostly scavengers, so their diet consists mainly of dead and dying animals. They also eat insects and plants. They are more likely to be preyed upon themselves, in fact, which is why they live in groups for protection. In cases where humans have been attacked by shoals of red-bellied piranhas, the victims are usually injured or are children. Also, most of these attacks occur during the dry season when food is scarce. These attacks are rarely fatal, often only resulting in multiple cuts on hands and feet. (Still… ouch!)
6. Poison Dart Frog
Poison dart frogs are some of the most colorful creatures you’ll find in the Amazon rainforest, but beware. Their bright coloration is actually a warning: “Touch me and you’re dead.” Indeed, poison dart frogs secrete a powerful poison through their skin, which if absorbed in large amounts, can cause heart failure within minutes. The golden poison dart frog is particularly deadly, possessing enough poison to kill up to twenty humans, or 10,000 mice! Where do the frogs get the poison? Scientists believe that they absorb the poison from insects, which in turn, get the poison from plants. In captivity, poison dart frogs have a different diet and so are not poisonous.
Poison dart frogs are featured in the following book:
25 Amazon Rainforest Animals
7. Bull Shark
Of the 480 species of sharks worldwide, three are most likely to attack humans. The bull shark is one of them, probably because of its aggressive, territorial nature and the fact that it often comes close to humans. It can live in both saltwater and freshwater, often preferring murky waters to feed in, which is why it is found near the shores of the Amazon River. Bull sharks eat mostly fish, but have been known to take birds, river dolphins and small mammals. And humans.
8. Pit Vipers
The green anaconda isn’t the only snake found in the Amazon rainforest. There are several species of dangerous snakes in this part of the world, in fact, and many of them are pit vipers — venomous snakes that can grow from 1 to 12 feet (0.3 to 3.7 meters) long.
In particular, you’ll want to keep an eye out for South American rattlesnakes, the colorful eyelash vipers (so named for the scales above their eyes that look like eyelashes), the fer-de-lance (which has an unpredictable temper, making it responsible for most of the snakebites in its range), and bushmasters (the longest vipers in the world).
Pit Vipers are featured in the following book:
25 Awesome Snakes
9. Assassin Bug
Assassin bugs are easily recognized for their proboscis — the trunk-like organ protruding from their mouths — which they use to inject their poisonous saliva into their prey, melting their organs from the inside out. This makes them dangerous to the other bugs in the Amazon rainforest, even those larger than they are. As for the danger they pose to humans, the larger ones can deliver a painful bite, while one subfamily — the kissing bugs or cone-nose bugs — can transmit Chagas disease, which results in about 12,500 deaths a year.
25 Bugs and Insects
10. Harpy Eagle
The harpy eagle is one of the largest birds of prey, with claws that can grow up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) long. With these claws, it snatches sloths, monkeys, squirrels, opossums and smaller birds from the trees, as well as armadillos, anteaters and coatis from the ground. It can even carry off capybaras and deer. This means they are capable of snatching children, although there are no reported cases. In fact, they are unlikely to attack humans unless their nests are threatened.
11. Brazilian Wandering Spider
The eight species of Brazilian wandering spider, all of which can be found in the Amazon rainforest, are considered by some to be the most venomous spiders on Earth. Their venom, after all, can cause intense pain, which when left untreated, can cause paralysis and trouble breathing. They are nocturnal, wandering across the ground at night in search of food.
12. Amazonian Giant Centipede
This centipede, which can grow 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) long, is another fierce predator in the Amazon rainforest, feeding on anything it can kill — insects, tarantulas, small birds, lizards, frogs, mice, small snakes and even bats. They coil their bodies around their prey, eating it while it is still alive. Humans, of course, can’t be eaten, but if they get bitten, the Amazonian giant centipede can cause pain, chills, fever and weakness.
Amazonian giant centipedes are featured in the following book:
25 Beastly Bugs and Insects
13. Bullet Ant
One of the most dangerous animals in the Amazon rainforest is actually tiny — just a little over 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long. So why is it dangerous? Its bite is likened to be as painful as being shot, even more painful than the bite of a tarantula hawk wasp. It can also inject venom, which, though not enough to be fatal, can cause temporarily paralysis of the bitten area.
14. Tree Boas
We’ve talked about snakes in the water and snakes on the ground. Now, there’s another group of snakes to be wary of — those on trees — the tree boas. These snakes are non-venomous, but don’t sigh in relief just yet. After all, these are heavy-bodied snakes that are capable of suffocating you. Also, they can still deliver painful bites, especially since they have larger teeth than venomous snakes. Examples of these include the Amazon tree boa (which is known for its temper), the bright green emerald tree boa, the shiny rainbow boa and the boa constrictor, which can grow up to 13 feet (4 meters) long.
15. Common Vampire Bat
Common vampire bats can be found in Mexico, and in Central and South America. Like most other bats, they are nocturnal, and they come out of their roosts at night to search for blood, their only source of food. Although they often feed on horses and cattle, they are known to drink human blood as well, drinking for as long as 30 minutes. The bite isn’t painful and the blood lost isn’t enough to make a human sick, but the bite site can get infected. Also, a small percentage of common vampire bats carry rabies.
What do you know?
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