Having grown in popularity amongst travelers in the past few years, it’s easy to see why. Sri Lanka boasts some of the most breathtaking beaches, luscious rainforests, and enchanting temples there are.
And not only that, but Sri Lanka is also blessed with a great diversity of animal life, with many being endemic to the island, such as the purple-faced leaf monkey and the majestic Sri Lankan leopard.
However, like many an exotic landscape, some of this wildlife is far from friendly. While no one wants to feel terrified before they jet off on holiday, it’s always handy to be aware of potential dangers. So, from mosquitos to crocs, we’ve got you covered when it comes to venturing into the unknown.
Russell’s Viper Snake
Ahh, the snake, always a common sight in any dangerous animals list, but for Sri Lanka, the Russell’s viper snake is one of their deadliest creatures. Found mainly in open, grassy areas, with green and brown camouflage making them almost invisible, it’s no wonder they pose such a danger. In fact, they are responsible for almost half of the country’s snakebite fatalities.
Although appearing slow moving, don’t be fooled, as it can strike at incredible speed if threatened. Symptoms of this snake bite include pain, followed by swelling, blood pressure and heart rate dropping, as well as bleeding (especially from gums and in urine). If bitten, immediately seek first aid treatment, and if possible, try to wrap a tight constrictive band just above the wound area while you wait.
Money…check, clothes…check, mosquito repellent…check. Rummage through any backpacker’s belongings and you’re likely to find some type of mosquito repellent. That’s because mosquitos count for over one million deaths per year and are prevalent in many Asian countries, with Sri Lanka being no exception.
To the vast majority of travelers, mosquitos are simply just a nuisance, swarming around you day and night, not giving you a moment’s peace. But for some, they can be deadly. Mosquitos carry diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, zika virus and dengue fever. If left untreated, these can be fatal.
Symptoms of these diseases are remarkably similar and include headaches, vomiting and muscle and joint pains. Many doctors recommend taking anti-malaria tablets before heading anywhere that is populated with mosquitos. However, once you are in mosquito land, repellent should become your best friend. It is also advised to wear loose-fitting clothing that covers your arms and legs.
The Sri Lankan leopard is the largest of the four wild cat species found in the Island. Although, having been added to the endangered species list, chances of running into one of these in the wild are getting smaller by the day.
These beautiful creatures have always been a big attraction for safari lovers, but you might not want to get too close as they can also be extremely dangerous. With a speed of up to 36 miles per hour, it’s safe to say no human could outrun one. And be wary of any wounded leopards, as they tend to become more aggressive in this state.
Having previously resided in India, Nepal, and Pakistan, it has recently reared its head in the Sri Lankan landscape. It often lives near human settlements, and while they are not particularly aggressive, they can carry a mean sting if stepped on or threatened.
Symptoms include severe pain, breathlessness, vomiting, sweating, and alternating high and low blood pressure and heart rate. If not treated, these stings can be fatal. Children are thought to be most at risk due to their bodies being smaller. However, as with many creatures on the list, simply treading carefully should keep you out of harm’s way.
Protected under Sri Lankan law (killing one carries the death penalty), the elephant population here has shrunk by almost 65% since the 19th century. Although being a massive attraction for many a traveler, these striking mammals can also be incredibly dangerous due to their size and weight. Let’s just say if an elephant decides to charge at you, you will most likely not be around to tell the story.
Over 6,000 Sri Lankan elephants reside on the island and can be found in national parks, rivers and even strolling along the roads. Like many animals, elephants don’t tend to attack unless threatened, so the old rule of staying calm will definitely come into play when encountering this majestic species. And be sure to never beep your horn at an elephant… that is simply asking for trouble.
There are three Sri Lankan species of monkey. These are the toque macaque, purple-faced leaf monkey and the tufted gray langur. They are generally found in forested habitats and are most active throughout the day. However, while these little guys may look like butter wouldn’t melt, they can be extremely mischievous and, in some cases, extremely aggressive.
Monkeys regularly get a bad reputation for being thieves and are known to try to steal what they can, whenever they can. But this is where the danger lies. One bite from any of these guys could result in any number of diseases, with rabies being one of the most common.
So, one tip when venturing past these furry robbers, is to keep belongings out of sight and especially do not try to feed them or show them food. But, if you do find yourself the victim of their next robbery and happen to be bitten in the process, seek medical attention straight away.
For many, even the tiniest of these eight-legged creatures is enough to terrify, so imagine coming across one the size of your face on your travels. Cue the poecilotheria rajaei. Discovered in 2009, this arachnid has a leg span of 20 centimetres and is endemic to the Island. However, the good news is that they are exceedingly rare, so chances of coming across this guy are slim.
Sri Lanka is home to 15 species of tarantula, with 9 of them being endemic. But again, some good news, no spider related deaths have been reported in this country, and if bitten, pain and some muscle cramping is likely the most you would experience. That being said, you may still be tempted to run away if you spot a spider the size of your head crawling towards you.
Wild boars (also known as common wild pigs) are typically found in the national parks and woodlands and are known to be aggressive. It may look a bit like the friendly pigs you pat at the local country park, but these guys are nowhere near as amicable. Although attacks are rare, think twice before encroaching on their territory, as perceived threats are the most common reason for these hogs to attack.
However, for the most part, they are just a welcome addition to spot on any Sri Lankan safari and usually all they are looking for is some fruit and veg.
Never smile at a crocodile…truer words have never been spoken (or sang). Two species of crocodile are found around these parts, the saltwater crocodile, and the marsh crocodile. Both are extremely dangerous.
Being the largest reptile on the planet, the saltwater crocodile can grow up to lengths of over six meters. They are mainly found in the south, east and west of the island and can be seen gliding along in estuaries and riverine systems.
Although there have been several fatal crocodile attacks, they are rare and, for the most part, if you stick to larger bodies of water, like the ocean, you will likely never encounter one of these man-eaters.
What is the most dangerous animal in Sri Lanka?
Due to the sheer amount, the most dangerous animal in Sri Lanka is the snake. However, the good news is that they tend to keep to themselves and are mainly found in the jungle or other grassy areas. Chances of running into them are pretty slim and you are statistically more likely to end up in hospital due to road traffic accidents or food poisoning.
Are there tigers in Sri Lanka?
It may come as a surprise to some that there are actually no tigers in Sri Lanka. While there are over 120 species of mammal and four species of wild cats, tigers are nowhere to be seen (apart from a zoo, of course). Leopards are the alpha predator in this part of the world.
Are there poisonous snakes in Sri Lanka?
There are 92 different species of snake in Sri Lanka, however only a few are highly venomous. Of all the Sri Lankan snakes, the deadliest are the russell’s viper, the cobra, and the krait…so you may want to be extra careful if you are unlucky enough to encounter one of these terrors.
Are there poisonous spiders in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is home to over 500 species of spiders, with over 50% being endemic. However, only a handful are poisonous, and unlike the snakes, there have been no recorded deaths from a spider bite. Poisonous species of spider here include the fringed ornamental tarantula and the Poecilotheria rajaei.