The Most Dangerous Animal

It is very difficult to know which animal is the most dangerous (human beings aside). The mosquito would be a good answer, while game rangers are fond of surprising tourists by saying that it is the hippopotamus. The latter is almost certainly wrong and you can surprise the game ranger by asking him or her for evidence. There is none. But the snake is undoubtedly a very dangerous creature. Cobras and mambas are lethal, but apparently the greatest number of animal deaths worldwide is from a small, but agile viper, called the saw-scaled viper. This is a viper that likes to bite and it is ubiquitous in areas lacking modern medical facilities.

The problem, recently discovered, is that the anti-venom for this snake tends to be specific to the area in which the viper is found.[1] Small geographical differences in the structure of the protein toxin that causes blood to clot in the vessels accounts for this spatial specificity. This means that anti-venoms must be made locally.

The real problem with snake bite treatment is that anti-venoms are not available when needed or they become damaged during transit and storage. Snakes are very important for local ecologies. A campaign of extermination would probably do humans more harm than good. So the battle between person and snake, which started all those years ago in the Garden of Eden, is set to continue.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Rogalski A, SOerensen C, op den Brouw B, Lister C, Dashevsky D, Arbuckle K, Gloria A, Zdenek CN, Casewell NR, Gutiérrez JM, Wüster W, Ali SA, Masci P, Rowley P, Frank N, Fry BG. Differential procoagulant effects of saw-scaled viper (Serpentes: Viperidae: Echis) snake venoms on human plasma and the narrow taxonomic ranges of antivenom efficacies. Toxicol Lett. 2017; 280: 159-70.

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