5 Endangered Species That Could Kill You, and How to Save Yourself
Since most endangered species these days get that way because of us humans, I'm not surprised that some of them want to kill us. OK, so maybe want to is anthropomorphic, but some of them certainly can kill humans. Even if you have some guilt over humanity's influence on extinction rates you'll still want to know what to do if you encounter one of these threatened animals, bent on revenge.
Here are some tips on how to avoid your own personal extinction.
1. Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis)
These little guys pack quite the punch. Reputed to be one of the deadliest animals on Earth, a fully grown 2-inch adult contains enough poison to kill 10 grown men. Found on the Pacific coast of Colombia, these rain forest dwellers are listed as endangered mostly due to loss of habitat and pesticide exposure.
The poison they transmit is a batrachotoxin that leads to cardiac arrest. Because of their toxicity, their only predator is a snake which has some immunity to the toxin. Everything else that eats them dies. Local indigenous Colombians use the frog's poison on their hunting darts, which, once treated, will remain toxic for up to two years.
Currently there is no antidote if you're poisoned by a golden poison frog so keep your distance -- and don't lick one of these little guys whatever you do. It is possible to handle these frogs without risking certain death. You just need to find a captive-bred individual. It seems that the source of the frogs toxicity comes from their natural food source, most likely a beetle, that passes the poison on to the frogs. Frogs raised away from these food sources lack the poison.
2. Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)Image: John and Karen Hollingsworth, US Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons
According to the International Rhino Foundation there are around 4,200 Black Rhinos roaming mostly in East Africa. This is up from the early 90's when only 2,300 were counted.
With such low numbers, chances are slim that you'll encounter one of these 2-3 ton tanks. But, if you do, the best thing to do is get down wind fast and be quiet. Like all rhino species, these guys have poor eyesight but a good sense of hearing and smell. If that doesn't work and the rhino's aggressive nature kicks in you have to do some quick thinking.
According to our friends at The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook the first thing you should do is climb a tree. If there are no trees, run into a thicket of scrub where the rhino will most likely not follow. If there's no scrub, their next suggestion is to stand your ground and yell. I don't know about you, but standing my ground against a charging rhino that could have reached a top speed of 35 mph sounds almost impossible. (Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has been clocked at a top speed just shy of 28 mph.)
Once one of the tactics above has worked, the final recommendation is to run in the opposite direction since the rhino will most likely keep on running and won't turn around for another charge.
3. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)Image: Alan D. Wilson via Wikimedia Commons
Ah polar bears, a favorite tragic icon of the human caused global warming era. While over-hunting was once a main cause of the bears' decline the IUCN now lists global warming as the main risk for this vulnerable species.
Human-polar bear encounters have increased in recent years -- the ice melts and the shrinking habitat making it a bit more likely that you'll run into Ursus maritimus if you're kicking around in the polar north. An extensive list of evasive action is posted on the Parks Canada website if indeed a bear does cross your path.
Hopefully, if you do spot a bear, it hasn't seen or smelled you first and you can keep the adrenaline under control and simply slink away down wind. But, if that's not possible and the unthinkable happens, here's Parks Canada's advice on how to deal with a charging polar bear.
- stand your ground and be prepared to fight! Bluff charges are rare.
- never get between a bear and her cubs. If a female with cubs is surprised at close range or separated from her cubs she will likely attack to defend her cubs.
- leave the area immediately
- stay in a group
- fight back if she attacks
- always leave an escape route for the bear
- carry deterrents and know how to use them