Even on the North and Baltic Seas, bathing holidaymakers can encounter a dangerous poisonous animal: that Weever. The perch-like fish with poisonous spines on its dorsal fin and gill cover looks for shallow waters during spawning time in spring and summer and digs itself into the sand. The step on Weever is dangerous. The poison causes painful swellings. First aid is to dip the affected area in hot water or to warm it up with a hair dryer – the poison loses its effect in the heat. Best protection: bathing shoes.
A tourist will never meet the terrible poison dart frog. He won’t touch any of these bright yellow frogs and won’t die of muscle, respiratory, and heart failure within 20 minutes. Unless he goes on an expedition to a tiny area of the Colombian rainforest. There the natives soak their blowpipe arrows with the poison and go hunting with them. The frogs are notorious.
When it comes to the danger of exotic animals when traveling, one is quick to excessive exaggerations. The biologist Knut Eichstaedt from Langen often sees it as “populism”. Nevertheless, depending on the type of travel, it is important to be prepared for animal encounters.
When trekking and hiking in the wilderness one should beware of poisonous snakes and spiders. “Deaths from poisonous snakes are quite common with 50,000 cases per year,” says Prof. Rainer Ganschow from the Bonn University Hospital. There is an information center against poisoning and a poison hotline at the Pediatric Center (Tel .: 0228/19240). Snake venom can act very quickly and lead to muscle cramps, shortness of breath, bleeding and cardiovascular arrest, explains the doctor.
The poison of inland taipan is the most dangerous. This species is found only in a small area in the Australian outback. Hikers should also avoid the king cobra in Thailand, for example, or rattlesnakes in the USA.
The trekking guide and tourism advisor Andreas Happe from Friedland advises caution: “Do not reach into caves or under stones, wear sturdy ankle-high shoes and throw them out before you put them on.” This also prevents scorpions, of which only a few species are really dangerous despite the painful sting for people are.
Initial measures are important after a snakebite. Ganschow advises immediate cleaning of the wound, a venous congestion above the injury and, if necessary, the administration of an antiserum: “Seeing a doctor immediately can save lives.” If possible, the snake should be photographed for identification.
The Sydney funnel-web spider in Australia is considered to be the most dangerous spider in the world. Bites from a black widow, the recluse spider or the Brazilian wandering spider also cause agony. However, death from a spider bite is extremely rare.
Much more danger for travelers is posed by common animals. “Stray dogs are responsible for around 25,000 deaths worldwide every year,” says Ganschow. Because they can transmit rabies. Cats infect people with cat scratch disease, reports biologist Eichstaedt.
The more unusual the travel region, the more special the protection it may be. When camping in the African wilderness, it is not recommended to leave the tent at night. On Spitzbergen, the expedition leadership should have a rifle with them to protect them from polar bears. In general, the bears: National parks in the USA advise, especially in autumn, to make a lot of noise on hikes and to have bear spray ready in case of an emergency.
But most of all, experts warn of a small, often barely visible animal when traveling: the mosquito. It transmits many deadly diseases in the tropics and subtropics and is therefore considered to be the most dangerous animal in the world. Important: consistent mosquito protection!
Basically, the danger from certain animal species is often perceived in a very distorted way. The greatest fear of the shark is certainly in the water. Wrongly: With around ten deaths per year, shark accidents play “practically no role”, as Rainer Ganschow says.
Knut Eichstaedt confirms: “Jellyfish cause the most trouble.” Of course, there is a difference between the fire jellyfish in the Baltic Sea and the box jellyfish or relatives in Northern Australia called sea wasps: “One hurts, the other kills me.”
The sea wasp lives in water near the coast. Touch can be fatal. For protection, entire beaches in Australia are fenced off at the sea. “The problem is not the jellyfish body, but what I don’t see, the tentacles, some of which are meter-long,” says Eichstaedt. He advises: “Either don’t go into the water or put on a long wetsuit and be prepared” – for example by bringing vinegar with you. Jellyfish venom is made up of proteins that denature on contact with vinegar. “You achieve a lot with that.”
The blue-ringed octopus off the coasts of Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia is also not to be trifled with. Your neurotoxin is paralyzing. Since the pretty squid often lingers in tide pools on the bank, it is particularly dangerous for children playing.
The best protection is the information: “Always inquire on site what dangers to be expected”, recommends Eichstaedt. “Most of the beaches have information boards that tell the most important things.”
Another danger lurks on beaches: sand fleas. They transmit leishmaniasis, as Eichsteadt explains. Not only dogs, also humans are affected and can suffer severe damage to internal organs from the infectious disease that occurs around the world.
Divers also need to be aware of some dangers. For example, the stonefish poison in the dorsal fin spines can be deadly. The species is found in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the Red Sea. The sea snakes native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans are never missing from the lists of the most dangerous animals. Fishermen in particular have to struggle with them. The puffer fish, which is coveted as a food fish in Japan but is highly poisonous, is rather shy and usually avoids divers. Divers should avoid the highly poisonous tropical cone snail. Whoever reaches for it risks death.
Likewise, it might be better not to get too close to the stingray: In 2006, the Australian documentary filmmaker Steve Irwin died on the Great Barrier Reef from a tail stab in the heart.