Fascinating but Deadly
Elephants, big cats, and Cape buffaloes
by David Johnson
Profiles of Dangerous Animals
The largest land mammal, a male African elephant can stand as tall as 13 feet at the shoulder and weigh more than 15,000 pounds. A male Asian elephant can weigh as much as 10,000 pounds. Elephants are among the most intelligent mammals, displaying a range of emotion. They have been known to laugh, cry, and play. However, because of their huge size, elephants occasionally kill people, usually by trampling them. An elephant can charge at up to 30 miles per hour, making them dangerous when wounded. Rogue elephants, solitary, old males who are prone to charge without provocation, are especially dangerous. It is also very unwise to get between a mother elephant and her calf.
Attacks on humans by lions, leopards, tigers, and other big cats may be increasing, as people encroach on their habitats. Generally, big cats, like most animals, will avoid people. People are urged to stay far away from these animals and to particularly avoid getting near the young.
In India, tiger habitats are facing increasing encroachment by farmers, with subsequent reports of increased attacks. Often, a tiger or other cat will approach a farm in search of domestic animals and kill the farmer who was defending his herd. The cat could like the taste of humans and realize how easy people are to hunt and kill. Man-eating leopards will enter a village in search of prey, but tigers will not. Sometimes older cats will turn to humans when wild animal prey has become too hard to catch.
Lions are massive enough to crush their victims, while smaller leopards rely on speed and aggression. They rush at their prey leaving it little chance of escape or self-defense.
In the American West, mountain lion attacks have increased as people continue to build homes and enjoy recreation in wild areas. However, the rate of attack remains low. In California, for instance, there is an average of one attack annually. There have been several deaths.
Found throughout southern and Central Africa, the Cape, or African, buffalo is an aggressive and mean-tempered animal that can fend off a lion attack. They can reach seven feet in length, stand up to five feet high at the shoulder, and weigh 1,500 pounds. They have sharp horns and gather in herds of up to 1,000. The Cape buffalo kills or injures more people in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania than any other animal. They often graze near humans, or they live in bushes during the heat of the day, where people sometimes surprise them. Cape buffalo tend to charge when surprised, gorging or trampling anything in their path.
Hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and hyenas
Scorpions, bears, and poison-dart tree frogs
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