Instead of mentioning Amazon jaguar, piranha, and anaconda, I’ll introduce you to the animals you should be more concerned about in the Amazon. These will not have large gaping jaws to swallow you whole or razor sharp claws, but will mostly be things that fit in your shoe.
And the smaller they get, the more dangerous they become.
One of the most feared animals in the rainforest by Amazon hardened guides are the bullet ants, but they are used to symbolize boys becoming men in Amazon Indian tribal groups.
It should be noted that you should have a healthy respect for these animals, and bullet ants define the most painful insect sting on the Schmidt pain index with the tarantula hawk wasp following close behind. But dangerous animals in the Amazon Rainforest will be the animals you are likely to encounter that pose a serious risk to your health. Bush master snakes are very dangerous snakes, but you are not likely to come across them. If you do meet one, it will want to avoid you at all costs. So what are the animals you may have more difficulty avoiding that would pose a serious health risk?
The most dangerous animal to humans on the planet by far, mosquitoes carry a range of pathogens that cause different diseases. In the Amazon Rainforest, the main diseases caused by mosquitoes are malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. Deforestation is directly linked to an increase in mosquito bites and the spread of disease, such as the linked rise in malaria.
Bite frequency rises in early evening and is crepuscular and overnight in its pattern. There are several methods to reduce mosquito bites like limiting activity at dusk and dawn, keeping covered up, using mosquito repellent, sleeping under a mosquito-proof mosquito net. It also helps if you take Vitamin B1 and eat garlic. Make sure you have a talk to your personal G.P. or travel doctor a few week before you visit to make sure you have the correct vaccinations and medication.
Sand flies are carriers of leishmaniasis, a notable disease to know about in the Amazon Rainforest. It is one of the major diseases of Amazon countries and especially significant in lowland jungles. Like dengue fever spread by mosquitoes, there is no regular vaccination against leishmaniasis and the best course of action is to follow advice to reduce insect bites written above and on the CDC website.
Some good advice is to regularly use insect repellent and sleep under an insect-repellent-covered mosquito net. The most common types of leishmaniasis are skin sores from cutaneous leishmaniasis or visceral leishmaniasis, which affects internal organs. More information from the Center for Disease Control website.
Lanceheads (Bothrops spp.) are the only non-invertebrate animals I will include, as they have a habit of relaxing themselves on man-made tracks, which is a problem if you’re walking through the rainforest. The genus contains about 37 species and are widely distributed throughout tropical South America. The main snakes the pose threats to people are the atrox-asper species complex.
The B. atrox species causes more deaths in South America than any other reptile. They are quite well camouflaged with the dead leaves and difficult to spot, so always walk with a professional guide. You can view our list of reputable tour operators for the Amazon Rainforest. It is especially a problem if for some reason you’re walking through the rainforest without adequate shoes for this environment. Research indicates 60% of all snake bites could have been prevented by wearing shoes that cover the ankle. In any tropical environment, always watch where you are putting your hands or placing your feet, and only step where you can clearly see unobstructed ground.
The pathogen that causes Chagas disease is spread by a number of different things but the most common carriers are certain species of kissing bugs. Remember that there are a wide variety of insects that look very similar and are completely harmless, but always use insect repellent when in tropical environments.
The bugs feed on blood and deposit faeces on your skin, which carry the disease causing organism called Trypanosoma cruzi. How do the bugs get infected in the first place? By feeding on blood already infected with the pathogen. Chagas disease has an initial acute phase followed by a chronic stage of the condition. Symptoms can include circulatory problems & interference with heart function. If untreated, the condition is lifelong and can be fatal.
Other dangerous animals in the Amazon Rainforest are the electric eel and wish-you-were-dead fish mentioned in the Amazon Rainforest fish article and certain spiders like the Brazilian wandering spider mentioned in the Amazon spiders article.
Of course, any animal will want to defend itself if threatened, but some dangerous animals in the Amazon like the ones mentioned above will be a little harder to avoid.
Have you had any close encounters with different diseases or dangerous animals? Feel free to leave your comments below.