What animal kills the most humans in Africa each year? From elephants overturning safari vehicles to poisonous snakes, the continent has many different kinds of dangerous animals. The most dangerous animal in Africa depends on where you are and what you are doing.
According to statistics, mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in Africa. By spreading malaria and other diseases, they are responsible for almost half a million annual fatalities.
Hippos are the most dangerous mammals in Africa, responsible for around 500 human casualties every year.
Lions can also be the most dangerous animals in Africa, considering they are the apex predator out on the African savanna.
Or you can argue that black mambas are more dangerous because a single bite contains enough venom to take out 25 people.
But let’s not get too caught up in who is the biggest and baddest African animal. They can all be dangerous, so let’s celebrate the incredible powers that make them menacing.
Deadliest Animal in Africa by Human Fatalities
Read on for the eleven most dangerous animals in Africa, fully updated with a guide on how to avoid getting injured in any confrontation. Then you can decide which creature is Africa’s deadliest.
1. Hippopotamus – Most dangerous animal
Think of a hippopotamus, and you may picture it as a very clumsy animal. Beware of misconceptions. Knowing how fast a hippo can run will make you nervous.
This 2-ton marvel will charge you in no time if alarmed. Hippos are highly territorial and should be approached with extreme caution, especially old bulls and cows with calves.
Believe it or not, hippos are responsible for more deaths than any other mammals in Africa. Check its teeth out. The incisors can measure up to 1 m long.
Hippos feel threatened when anything or anyone comes in between them and the water. And they may be Africa’s most dangerous animal because they’re so belligerent and aggressive. A hippo doesn’t think twice – if something gets in the way, they charge.
How to get away from a hippo: The only way to outrun a hippo is to run uphill. However, if you are chased by a hippo, it means you got too close. So rule number one is to keep your distance.
How to avoid a hippo on the water: Incidents on the water are more common, so think twice before getting too close to these “river horses” of the African bush.
When in the water, tap the side of the boat to indicate where you are. And when a hippo makes any movement towards your boat, retreat immediately, not just when the hippo starts chasing.
2. Nile crocodile
Nile crocs are vicious and will do almost anything to catch their prey. They have an acute smell, excellent hearing, and with a flick of a tail, can catapult themselves onto riverbanks to reach their potential meal.
Every year, the Nile crocodile is accountable for hundreds of human casualties around African villages and small towns. These giant predators are not picky eaters and will happily ensnare any potential meat along the riverside, usually drowning their victims.
Nile crocodiles have a jaw that’s eight times stronger than a great white shark – how’s that for the most deadly animal in Africa?
How to avoid a Nile crocodile attack: Don’t splash in the shallows of any river known to be home to crocodiles. These predators hunt from the water. You will often see crocodiles sunbathing on the riverbank. When you can see them, you are probably safe. But when crocodiles lurk below the water, you may be in danger.
There’s an entire myth around hyenas. People often see them as being evil creatures and are sometimes associated with witchcraft in a variety of African countries. But they are fabulous and fascinating animals.
Hyenas are very well organised and highly intelligent animals. They have impressive eyesight, great smell, and impeccable hearing.
While hyenas are mainly nocturnal animals, you can usually see them scampering around on a daytime game drive. One of the best places to encounter them is Serengeti National Park.
Many consider these strange beings to be the most feared animal in Africa because of their loud shrieks, moans, and weird hyena laugh. They are incredible to listen to in the midst of the night.
Hyenas are mainly scavengers but do occasionally hunt. They have incredibly powerful jaws, capable of cracking even the leg bones of a giraffe or going through crocodile skin.
While they don’t kill as many people as hippos, hyenas can still claim to be the most dangerous animal in Africa, or at least the most vicious. There are various reports of hyenas slashing the skin off human faces. They’re dangerous because they can travel large distances and approach a camp unannounced.
How to avoid a hyena attack when camping in the bush: Hyenas can become very bold when hungry and will happily approach the camp. However, they don’t like fire, so a healthy fire is indispensable when sleeping under the stars. And remember to close your tent if you hear hyenas howling at night.
4. African elephant
Being the largest land mammal on planet Earth, the African elephant is a marvel of science. However, its colossal size means that it goes wherever it wants. Ever tried stopping an elephant? Nobody would be that stupid.
Elephants can weigh up to six tons and require enormous amounts of fodder every single day. In fact, they will eat as much as 250 kg of vegetation and can drink over 100 liters of water in a single go.
While these pachyderms are “relatively” harmless in national parks, once they step outside of reserves, it’s another story. This is especially true when they meet local villagers or trespass fields. More often than none, this leads to fatal casualties. Both elephants and humans suffer the consequences.
Older bulls can also be problematic, primarily when they go through what’s called “musth”. During this sexually active time they become extremely unpredictable and aggressive. They’re also highly identifiable, as a thick liquid secretion comes out from the temporal glands on the sides of the head.
Take heed: an elephant charge is something you won’t forget. However, many people on self-guided safaris believe elephants to be cute and friendly animals. They flash their cameras and agitate one of Africa’s most dangerous animals. Elephants can easily flip a safari truck and won’t stand anything in their way.
How to avoid getting charged by an elephant: African elephants have fairly predictable behavior. When annoyed, they will stamp their feet and flap their ears. This is a show of power and aggression and a sign that you must retreat and drive away immediately.
Elephants even provide a second stamping and flapping warning. They only charge the third time. Self-guided safari-goers don’t know this routine, and it is they who can turn elephants into Africa’s most dangerous animal.
5. African wild dog
One of the rarest and most impressive African animals, the African wild dog is endangered despite being built for the kill.
Wild dogs have the highest successful hit rate out of all the large African predators, so you can argue that they are the number one animal killer in Africa. 25% is a good success rate for hunting lions. That means the pride needs four hunts for every one successful kill.
African wild dog packs have a hunting success rate of 75-85%. When they hunt, they win.
African hunting dogs hunt in packs and will run after their prey until surrendered. Their killing strategy is somewhat cruel: they dismember it, alive!
How to avoid African wild dogs: Any animal with such a superb hit rate is impossible to outrun. If wild dogs come after you, the only escape is in the water. You will need to swim and tread water, hoping that someone comes to assist because the dogs will be waiting on the shore.
6. Puff adder
The puff adder is one of the deadliest animals in Africa and accounts for nearly 32 000 deaths per year, leaving many more victims with disabilities. The largest concern with encountering a puff adder is the speed with which they can strike.
While slow-moving, these camouflaged snakes are difficult to see and are often trodden on by mistake. This results in a bite that delivers a fatal dose of cytotoxic venom.
How to avoid being bitten by a puff adder: When walking in nature during the hottest times of the day, make sure to check the path ahead of you. Puff adders are known to lie in the sun on paths or roads.
7. Black mamba
The most feared and one of the most vicious of all the African species out there.
A black mamba is a contender for the most aggressive animal in Africa and can strike at you with amazing precision, whether they feel vulnerable or not. They are extremely rapid and usually go for the head by propelling themselves with their tail.
If not treated immediately, a black mamba bite can be lethal in as little as twenty minutes. A single bite delivers a neurotoxic and cardiotoxic venom that is potent enough to kill as many as 10-25 fully grown men. Ouch!
Did I mention black mambas could reach a length of up to 4.5 m? Yes, it’s a big snake.
So are black mambas the deadliest animals in Africa? They can certainly take down the most people in a single bite. And they can slither at 20 km/h, so they’re one of the world’s fastest and most dangerous snakes. Uh oh. We’re in trouble here.
How to stay alive after a black mamba bite: You can’t outlive a black mamba bite without receiving anti-venom. Unfortunately, the venom can kill in just 20 minutes. After any snake bite, the most important thing to do is nothing.
Venom moves faster through your blood when you are moving. Run for help, and the venom will spread. Your only hope is to stay absolutely still, thereby isolating the venom and wait for assistance.
8. African lion
The king of the savannah is just pure power, speed, and agility. An encounter with this 250 kg predator is only going to end one way – badly.
Are you wondering how fast can a lion run? These wild cats are incredibly swift and can reach speeds of 81 km/h. They have tremendous bite strength and a power to weight ratio. Lions are the apex predator, so have a strong claim to the title of Africa’s most dangerous animal.
How to avoid a lion attack: If you encounter a lion in the wild, don’t run. Sounds easy to say, but by fleeing, your chances of making it alive are even slimmer. Once you run away, you are seen as prey. Typically, male lions ‘bluff’ and will retreat nine times out of ten unless they’re really hungry.
9. Cape buffalo
Particularly dangerous when pursued or wounded, Cape buffalo can weigh close to 1000 kg. Knowing how fast a buffalo can run won’t make you feel any safer with adults able to reach speeds of 56 km/h. They’re more dangerous than domestic bulls and kill more than ten people every year in Africa.
A buffalo will charge head-on and is very difficult to stop at close range. They are herbivores but are one of the most dangerous African animals because they maul any person or animal they feel threatened by.
Remember, buffalo must battle with lions every single day, and they understand the importance of making a pre-emptive strike.
Cape buffalo have been known to attack hunting camps long before any gunshots have sounded. They maul the camp and the hunters before the hunters have time to get set and fire.
Large herds of buffalos (sometimes comprising hundreds of individuals) are usually very relaxed. The power of numbers gives them a clear advantage, so they normally don’t feel threatened as easily.
Herds of bachelor male buffalo are especially dangerous. All that pent-up aggression combined with a sense of insecurity makes them aggressive and one of Africa’s most dangerous animals to encounter.
How to avoid getting charged by buffalo: When Cape buffalo charge you’re only option is to run and hope that the buffalo reconsider whether you are a threat.
Mosquitos are considered the deadliest African animal, with bites responsible for around half a million human losses worldwide every year.
The disease is transmitted by the anopheles, female mosquitoes that may cause malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever.
So on statistics alone, mosquitoes are the most deadly animals in Africa.
How to avoid mosquito bites: Cover up, wear repellent, and sleep under a mosquito net. Learn more about mosquito bite prevention.
11. Honey badger
Honey badgers are fearless, display considerable aggression and have a convincing bite. They are amazing hunters and will eat almost anything: insects, rodents, birds, and even deadly snakes.
Their loose skin helps them escape predators trying to get hold of them – the honey badgers literally squirm out of their skin, turn around, and attack their hunters.
These ferocious creatures will even attack humans and have been known to bravely assault vehicles for no apparent reason.
Indeed, honey badgers are better left alone. Yet are they the most dangerous animal in Africa? Probably not, but still, give them a wide berth.
How to avoid a honey badger attack: Just don’t get too close to these predators. They may look cute, but they can really attack.
What are the Most Dangerous Animals in Africa?
The most dangerous animal in Africa is probably the one that ends up attacking you. Though that should not happen. Remember, the African savanna is their realm, and we can only ever be visitors in the animal kingdom.
So keep your distance, remember that wild animals really are wild, and enjoy these incredible organisms for what they are, not what they may do to you.
If you are planning a trip to see the above animals in their natural habitat, check out these incredible African safari deals.