Man-eater is a colloquial term for an animal that preys upon humans. This does not include scavenging. Although human beings can be attacked by many kinds of animals, man-eaters are those that have incorporated human flesh into their usual diet. Most reported cases of man-eaters have involved tigers, leopards, lions and crocodiles. However, they are by no means the only predators that will attack humans if given the chance; a wide variety of species have also been known to take humans as prey, including bears, large constricting snakes (such as boas and pythons), Komodo dragons, wolves, hyenas, other big cats, piranhas, driver ants, sharks, and even other humans.
1 – Lion
Man-eating lions are reportedly bolder and more aggressive than tigers, having been recorded to actively enter human villages at night to acquire prey. This greater assertiveness usually makes man-eating lions easier to dispatch than tigers. Lions typically become man-eaters for the same reasons as tigers: starvation, old age and illness, though as with tigers, some man-eaters, including the Tsavo lions, were reportedly in perfect health. The lion’s proclivity for man-eating has been systematically examined. American and Tanzanian scientists report that man-eating behavior in rural areas of Tanzania increased greatly from 1990 to 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many eaten over this period—a number far exceeding the more famed “Tsavo” incidents of a century earlier. The incidents occurred near Selous National Park in Rufiji District and in Lindi Province near the Mozambican border. While the expansion of villagers into bush country is one concern, the authors argue that conservation policy must mitigate the danger because, in this case, conservation contributes directly to human deaths. Cases in Lindi have been documented where lions seize humans from the center of substantial villages. It is estimated that 550-700 people are attacked by lions every year.
2 – Shark
Every year around 60 shark attacks are reported worldwide, although death is quite unusual. Despite the relative rarity of shark attacks, the fear of sharks is a common phenomenon, having been fueled by the occasional instances of serial attacks, such as the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, and by horror fiction and films, such as the Jaws series. Many shark experts feel that the danger presented by sharks has been exaggerated, and even the creator of the Jaws phenomenon, the late Peter Benchley, attempted to dispel the myth of sharks being man-eating monsters in the years before his death.
In 2000, the year with the most recorded shark attacks, there were 79 shark attacks reported worldwide, 11 of them fatal. In 2005 and 2006 this number decreased to 61 and 62 respectively, while the number of fatalities dropped to only four per year. Of these attacks, the majority occurred in the United States (53 in 2000, 40 in 2005, and 39 in 2006). The New York Times reported in July 2008 that there had been only one fatal attack in the previous year. Despite these reports, however, the actual number of fatal shark attacks worldwide remains uncertain. For the majority of third world coastal nations there exists no method of reporting suspected shark attacks therefore losses and fatalities at near-shore or sea there often remain unsolved or unpublicized.
3 – Mysor Bear (Sloth Bear)
The sloth bear is more inclined to attack man unprovoked than almost any other animal, and casualties inflicted by it are unfortunately very common, the victim being often terribly disfigured even if not killed, as the bear strikes at the head and face. Blanford was inclined to consider bears more dangerous than tigers.
Captain Williamson in his Oriental Field Sports wrote of how sloth bears rarely killed their human victims outright, but would suck and chew on their limbs till they were reduced to bloody pulps. One specimen, known as the Sloth bear of Mysore, was singlehandedly responsible for the deaths of 12 people and the mutilation of 2 dozen others before being shot by Kenneth Anderson. Although sloth bears have attacked humans, they rarely become man-eaters. Dunbar-Brander’s Wild Animals of Central India mentions a case in which a sow with two cubs began a six week reign of terror in Chanda, a district of the Central Provinces, during which more than one of their victims had been eaten, while the sloth bear of Mysore partially ate at least three of its victims. R.G. Burton deduced from comparing statistics that sloth bears killed more people than Asian black bears, and Theodore Roosevelt considered them to be more dangerous than American black bears. In Madhya Pradesh, sloth bear attacks accounted for the deaths of 48 people and the injuring of 686 others between the years 1989 and 1994, probably due in part to the density of population and competition for food sources. A total of 137 attacks (resulting in 11 deaths) occurred between April 1998 and December 2000 in the North Bilaspur Forest Division of Chhattisgarh. The majority of attacks were perpetrated by single bears, and occurred in kitchen gardens, crop fields, and in adjoining forests during the monsoon season.
4 – Beast of Gévaudan
The Beast of Gévaudan is a name given to man-eating wolf-like animals alleged to have terrorized the former province of Gévaudan, in the Margeride Mountains in south-central France from 1764 to 1767 over an area stretching 90 by 80 kilometres (56 by 50 mi). The beasts were consistently described by eyewitnesses as having formidable teeth and immense tails. Their fur had a reddish tinge, and was said to have emitted an unbearable odour. They killed their victims by tearing at their throats with their teeth. The number of victims differs according to source. De Beaufort (1987) estimated 210 attacks, resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. An enormous amount of manpower and resources was used in the hunting of the animals, including the army, conscripted civilians, several nobles, and a number of royal huntsmen. All animals operated outside of ordinary wolf packs, though eyewitness accounts indicate that they sometimes were accompanied by a smaller female, which did not take part in the attacks.
5 – Python
Attacks on humans are very uncommon. Although this species can easily kill an adult, there are only a few cases in which the victim, in most cases a child, was actually consumed. A Ugandan newspaper reported in 1951 that a 13-year-old boy was swallowed, but the python was forced to disgorge the body. In 1973, another newspaper reported that a Portuguese soldier was discovered in the stomach of a snake. In 1979, a 14.9 ft (4.5 m) python tried to eat a 13-year-old boy. It was discovered with the boy completely entwined, but after being hit by stones, it regurgitated the body and retreated. The boy was 1.3 m tall and weighed 45 kg. On Easter weekend of 2009, Ben Nyaumbe, a farmer was attacked after stepping on a specimen, and was dragged up a tree by the snake, but managed to escape after calling for help on his mobile phone. The last known case in which a person was eaten occurred in South Africa in 2002, the victim being a 10-year-old child.
6 – Crocodile
Crocodile attacks on people are common in places where large crocodiles are native and human populations live.
Only six of the 23 crocodilian species are considered dangerous to adult humans, and only individuals 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length or more represent a serious danger to humans, as smaller crocodiles are considered incapable of killing a person. The two species with the most well-known and documented reputation for preying on humans are the Nile crocodile and saltwater crocodile. Each year, hundreds of deadly attacks are attributed to the Nile crocodile in sub-Saharan Africa. On New Guinea, Borneo and the Solomon Islands attacks by saltwater crocodiles often occur. The mugger crocodile is also very dangerous to humans, killing many people in India every year. The American crocodile, while generally considered to be less aggressive, does occasionally kill humans and a handful of fatalities are reported and confirmed every year in Central America and southern Mexico. The black caiman is also responsible for several recorded human fatalities every year within the Amazon basin and the surrounding regions. The American alligator is responsible for human fatalities, with most occurring in Florida.
It is important to note that no species of crocodilian should ever be considered completely “harmless” as even the smallest species can inflict painful bites requiring stitches if harassed. In addition, a small child may be of a similar size to the prey of some of the crocodilian species incapable of preying on adult humans.
7 – Tiger
Tigers attack humans for various reasons. If a human comes too close and surprises a sleeping or a feeding tiger (particularly if it is a tigress with cubs), a tiger may attack and kill a human. Tigers can also attack human in a case of “mistaken identity” (for example, if human is crouching while collecting firewood, or cutting grass). Some also recommend not to drive a bicycle, or run in a region where tigers live in order not to provoke their chase. Peter Byrne wrote about an Indian postman who was working on foot for many years without any problems with resident tigers, but was chased by a tiger soon after he started riding a bicycle for his work. In case if you see a tiger, it is recommended not to run and not to show your back to a tiger. Tigers (and all big cats) are naturally avoiding humans, so most likely a tiger will not be aggressive towards a human who is not provoking it. Man-eating tigers are different. In some cases tigers change their natural diet and become man-eaters. This is usually a result of a tiger being incapacitated by a gunshot wound or porcupine quills, or some other factors. As tigers in Asia often live in a close proximity of big number of humans, the tiger has killed more people than any other cat.
8 – Komodo Dragon Lizard
Most lizard species are harmless to humans. Only the largest lizard species, the Komodo dragon, which reaches 3.3 meters (11 feet) in length and weighs up to 166 kg (365 pounds), has been known to stalk, attack, and, on occasion, kill humans. An eight-year-old Indonesian boy died from blood loss after an attack in 2007. The venom of the Gila monster and beaded lizard is not usually deadly but they can inflict extremely painful bites due to powerful jaws.
Komodo dragons avoid encounters with humans. Juveniles are very shy and will flee quickly into a hideout if a human comes closer than about 100 metres (330 ft). Older animals will also retreat from humans from a shorter distance away. If cornered, they will react aggressively by gaping their mouth, hissing, and swinging their tail. If they are disturbed further, they may start an attack and bite. Although there are anecdotes of unprovoked Komodo dragons attacking or preying on humans, most of these reports are either not reputable or caused by defensive bites. Only a very few cases are truly the result of unprovoked attacks by abnormal individuals which lost their fear towards humans.
9 – Piranha
Piranha teeth are often used to make tools and weapons by the indigenous population. Piranhas are also popular as food, although if an individual piranha is caught on a hook or line it may be attacked by other (free) piranhas.
Piranhas are commonly consumed by subsistence fishermen and often sold for food in local markets. In recent decades dried specimens have been marketed as tourist souvenirs. Piranhas occasionally bite and sometimes injure bathers and swimmers. A piranha bite is considered more an act of carelessness than that of misfortune, but piranhas are a considerable nuisance to commercial and sport fishers because they steal bait, mutilate catch, damage nets and other gear, and may bite when handled.
Several piranha species appear in the aquarium trade. Piranhas can be bought as pets in some areas, but they are illegal in many parts of the United States.
10 – Brown Bear
As a rule, brown bears seldom attack humans on sight, and usually avoid people. They are, however, unpredictable in temperament, and will attack if they are surprised or feel threatened. Sows with cubs account for the majority of injuries and fatalities in North America. Habituated or food-conditioned bears can also be dangerous, as their long-term exposure to humans causes them to lose their natural shyness, and, in some cases, to associate humans with food. Small parties of one or two people are more often attacked than large groups, with no attacks being recorded against parties of six people or more. In contrast to injuries caused by American black bears, which are usually minor, brown bear attacks tend to result in serious injury and, in some cases, death.
In Japan, a large brown bear nicknamed “Kesagake” made history for causing the worst bear attack in Japanese history at Tomamae, Hokkaidō during December, 1915, killing seven people (including one pregnant woman) and wounding three others (with possibly another three previous fatalities to its credit) before being gunned down after a large-scale beast-hunt. Today, there is still a shrine at Rokusensawa, where the event took place, in memory of the victims of the incident.