As human populations encroach on animal territories, animal attacks increase in number and severity. In India, where farmland overlaps with animal territories, these attacks are frequent.
The Indian leopard, common krait, spectacled cobra, sloth bear, Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, and saltwater crocodile are the most dangerous animals in India.
Read on to learn more about the deadliest predators in coexisting with humans in this ecologically diverse country.
Roughly 9,800 Indian leopards roam India. These large cats typically have yellowish base coats with black rosettes all over their body.
Indian leopards are solitary, nocturnal cats. After a hunt, they leave the remains of their kills in the branches of trees, out of reach of other predators. They can prey on small to large animals––and sometimes humans.
There have been reports in the last few years of wild leopards going on rampages and killing humans in densely populated areas. Generally, this is because cities and farms are encroaching on what used to be the leopards’ territory. People and leopards both like to live near sources of water, such as rivers.
The leopard wanders into town and finds itself cornered by frightened humans and lashes out. Frightened villagers provoke them by throwing rocks or shooting guns. Then, the leopard uses its large claws and killer instincts to do a lot of damage. It takes more than a rock or a bullet to take down an angry leopard.
In India, 46,000 people die annually from snake bites, but some scientists suggest that number may be more. There are over 300 species of snakes in India, but the most infamous are known as the “Big Four,” such as the common krait with its deadly venom.
The common krait lives in Asian forests, hunting frogs, small mammals, and lizards at night. These snakes can grow to be around two meters long and usually have black bodies with bands of either white or yellow.
Most people accidentally step on kraits hiding in tall grasses. The snakes then respond with fear and a nasty snake bite. Their venom causes neurological symptoms such as headache, blurred vision, paralysis, drowsiness, and unconsciousness. The only cure is to inject the victim with antivenom. Yet, some areas of India don’t offer easy access to medical care, making the common krait a fatal foe.
The Indian spectacled cobra is one of the “Big Four” deadliest snakes in India. These large, venomous snakes get to around 1.5 meters long and have a distinct hood they display when they feel threatened.
These snakes live in the savannas, grasslands, mangroves, and tropical rainforests of India. They mostly feed on black rats and other small animals. You can find them in populated areas around India where they feed on these pests.
According to the BBC, 90% of India’s snake bites happen because someone steps on a snake accidentally. Many Indian people in rural areas don’t wear footwear, which puts them at a higher risk of getting bad snake bites. Others plain don’t know what to do when they come face-to-face with a cobra.
The spectacled cobra’s venom causes pain, headache, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting. Eventually, these symptoms worsen, leading to breathing problems, paralysis, and cardiac arrest.
The sloth bear has a long, black coat with a cream-colored, V-shaped mark on its chest. These large mammals grow to be around five to six feet long. They also weigh around 200 to 300 pounds. They live in the forests of India, grunting as they eat fruit or dig at termite and ant nests.
Although these bears are beautiful and don’t feed on large animals like humans, they startle easily. Pair that with large claws, and you have the recipe for the deadliest bear in the world. The main issue is when a sloth bear wanders into a farmer’s field, or if people go into the woods in search of firewood.
Many female sloth bear dens are located close to human settlements. These bears are very protective of their young and are more willing to attack to defend them. Humans, in turn, tend to retaliate against the sloth bear–-creating a deadly situation.
Although the Bengal tiger is an endangered species, 40 to 50 people are killed annually by these large cats. These reddish-orange felines have black and white stripes across their bodies. They are around 10 feet long and weigh around 500 pounds.
The Bengal tiger’s diet consists of large prey, like pigs, deer, antelope, and buffalo. They hunt at dusk and dawn, stalking their prey in the tall grasses where their stripes help them blend in. These tigers can eat around 88 pounds of meat per feeding.
Not all tigers are deadly man-eaters, but some stalk and kill humans. As people work to conserve these animals and increase their numbers, they put more of these deadly creatures into contact with humans. Tigers and humans inhabit many of the same territories. In addition, Bengal tigers eat people’s livestock, which causes humans to retaliate.
In India, elephants kill 350 people per year. They dwell in forests and grasslands throughout Asia. Asian elephants are very social, living in herds dominated by a matriarch. They feed on grass and live close to fresh water.
Although these animals are typically gentle giants, many people live near the elephant reserves, giving Asian elephants fewer areas to roam free from human settlements. Elephants find their way into crops, wiping out several hundred pounds of food in a single day. Farmers trying to protect their crops often get trampled or gored by elephants.
Also, people walking at night sometimes happen to meet these large mammals, startling them, and resulting in trampling. These killings often cause humans to retaliate, but people are also working to find better solutions for keeping elephants away from crops and protecting both animals and humans alike.
Living in the mangrove forests and coastal areas of the eastern Indian oceans, these crocodiles can reach up to 23 feet in length and weigh over 2,200 pounds. They have powerful jaws and can hold their breath underwater for extended periods. Saltwater crocs lurk along the water’s edge, stalking their prey until they find the opportunity to strike.
Like many of the other animals on this list, saltwater crocodiles share their habitat with humans. From 2000 to 2013, there were 127 crocodile attacks on 30 villages in the Sundarbans delta. Once again, as humans encroach on animal habitats, conflicts become inevitable.
Crocodiles prey on livestock and can lash out at humans who wander into the wrong area. In addition, many of these incidents also occur due to poaching. As poachers attempt to kill a saltwater croc to sell its hide to make trinkets, the dangerous animal attacks and maims or kills the human.
Man and Animal Could Live in Harmony
The people of India have learned to coexist with many of the world’s most deadly predators. But this cohabitation comes with a price. Each year, predators kill thousands of people.
Conservationists have an uphill climb to discover the best way for humans and these deadly animals to coexist. They work to educate populations about safe interactions with wild animals and to protect the wild animals from poaching and retaliation. In time, maybe man and beast can learn to live in harmony.