Dangerous Animals in Vietnam: 11 Deadliest To Watch Out For

By twenty20photos from Envanto Elements
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Thousands of travelers are enticed by the misty jungles and sparkling seas of Indochina each year, but what about dangerous animals in Vietnam? What formidable beasts lurk between the blustery beaches of Mui Ne and the eye-watering stacks of Ha Long Bay? What slithering serpents and monstrous mammals could pose a threat as you explore the S-bend of Southeast Asia that runs from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south?

Cue this guide. It reveals nine of the most dangerous animals in Vietnam. From venomous snakes and deadly creepy crawlies to mammals that don’t mind getting aggressive, it offers examples both big and small. Some specimens possess potent neurotoxin poisons, others have canines and molars that would put Dracula to shame. None of them are the sort of thing you’d want to meet as you hike the hills of Sa Pa or laze on the sands down in Hoi An – trust us!

So, if you’re planning to visit Vietnam, be sure to clue up on these animals to watch out for…

Vietnamese giant centipede

Giant centipede on concrete floor a dangerous animals in Vietnam
Photo by anankkml from Envato Elements
  • Latin name: Scolopendra subspinipes
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Local wound care
  • Where you find them: Forests, undergrowth
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Also known as the Chinese red-headed centipede and the jungle centipede, the Vietnamese giant centipede could just have been plucked straight out of a spine-tingling Steven King novel. These bad boys can grow up to 20cm (8 inches) in length, and form over 20 individual body segments. They’re jumpy and extremely aggressive by nature, and will often go after any prey that they feel they’re capable of overpowering.

They also – and here’s the key part – have a venomous bite. If ingested, the venom can cause paralysis and swift death in smaller animals (usually bats, spiders and medium-sized insects). In humans, it can lead to necrosis and cell decay, so you’ll need to seek medical attention if you cross paths with one of these and things go south.

The Vietnamese giant centipede is found in Vietnam’s southern region. The good news is that they mainly reside in rural areas in the hinterland of the country, far away from the bars and the buzzy streets of big cities. The species is also present across most tropical regions of Southeast Asia and even as far afield as the Caribbean.

Weaver ants

dangerous animals in vietnam weaver ant
Photo by Vineeth Kumar on Unsplash
  • Latin name: Oecophylla
  • Attacks: Bite and inflammatory venom
  • Treatment: Local wound care
  • Where you find them: In trees in the forests
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Weaver ants were nicknamed Communist ants by US troops during the Vietnam War because of their bright red color. More than that, though. One foot placed in the wrong spot in the jungle and viola: That’s your bivouac ruined. Weavers come out in force and don’t hesitate to attack anyone (or anyone’s leg, more to the point) that they perceive as a threat to the nest – GI boots or no GI boots!

These ants are a close relative of North America’s dreaded fire ants. They also pack an equally powerful bite. While they lack a functional sting, the pincers are partnered with formic acid to cause major discomfort, swelling, irritation of the skin, and searing pain at the point of contact.

Weaver ants are found in jungles all across Southeast Asia and Australia. The thing that makes them pretty unique is that they form nests in the trees, not on the ground. What’s more, nests can be woven together to create a colony, which can contain multiple communities of weavers and millions of individuals. Oh, and if you’re feeling really adventurous on your travels, join the locals in trying the weaver ant as a snack. It’s considered something of a local delicacy!

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoe
Photo by twenty20photos from Envato Elements
  • Latin name: Culicidae
  • Attacks: Bite and subsequent infection from tropical disease
  • Treatment: Anti-malarial prophylactic, DEET spray, anti-mosquito spray
  • Where you find them: All over Southeast Asia, but often close to open bodies of water
  • Conservation status: Least concern

An often silent yet lethal killer, the mosquito is probably one of the most dangerous animals in Vietnam that’s regularly overlooked by travelers. Don’t forget about them! They are much more than just a buzzing irritation that can be waved away at the brush of a hand…

Throughout Vietnam, and many tropical and sub-tropcial corners of the planet besides, mosquitoes are often the primary vectors of dangerous diseases. The most famous of them is probably malaria – a potentially fatal disease that’s caused by the bite of mozzies infected with a particular parasite. Contract that and you’ll be shivering and sweating with some of the most hardcore flu-like symptoms going. But the dreaded M isn’t the only thing. In fact, many Vietnamese locals are more wary of dengue fever, which also causes high temperatures, partial paralysis, and sometimes hallucinations.

There is no knowing which mosquito is a carrier of a disease. The best way to dodge them is to protect yourself from all bites and dangerous mosquito-borne diseases. Our recommendation? Be sure to pack a reliant repellent that contains DEET for the best results and always try to cover your arms and legs at key times of the day – the evening and early morning especially.

Mosquito-borne diseaseSymptoms
Dengue feverRash, fever, headache, easy bruising, bleeding gums
Zika virusFever, rash, joint pain, red eyes
MalariaFever, headache, chills, vomiting
Yellow feverJaundice, headache, backache, chills, vomiting
Seek medical attention if you have any of these symptoms with mosquito bites

Bats

one of three species of bats in vietnam
Photo by Todd Cravens on Unsplash
  • Latin name: Chiroptera
  • Attacks: Bite
  • Treatment: Local wound car and anti-virals
  • Where you find them: Forests, caves, cities
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Bats are next up on our list of the most dangerous animals in Vietnam. These flying rodents fill the streets and tree canopies at dusk and dawn, and often live in built-up areas just as much as rural parts of the country. Be sure to keep a special watch out for them near the waterways of the Mekong River and in major Vietnamese cave systems around regions like Ninh Bình and Sa Pa.

The COVID pandemic of 2020/21 put the potential of bat-borne viruses into perspective for much of the world. But bats also carry rabies and a whole host of other animal virus strands that are thought to have the ability to make the jump to humankind. The good news is that the main issue with all that has historically been human consumption of bats. If you can resist bat soups and stir-fried bat wings, you should be safe from these critters. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of other, more enticing, food to sample in these parts!

Vietnam is home to several species of bat. The Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat has only ever been seen in Vietnam’s tropical jungles. Other bats found in Vietnam are the greater roundleaf bat and the horseshoe bat. Those inhabit caves and tree canopies throughout the country.

Gaur

gaur
Photo by Syed Ahmad on Unsplash
  • Latin name: Bos gaurus
  • Attacks: Charge
  • Treatment: Wound care
  • Where you find them: Evergreen forests and moist deciduous forests
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The gaur is an endangered type of wild water buffalo. Historically, these big mammals were found throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. However, due to poaching, farming, and development, populations have become severely fragmented and depleted. In fact, numbers of guar around the world are thought to have dropped more tan 70% in the last half century alone, and it’s estimated that there’s now a mere 21,000 of the beasts still living in their natural habitats.

In Vietnam itself, herds of guar can still be seen in the Ea So Nature Reserve and Yok Don and Cat Tien national parks. They are one of the most threatened groups of animals in Vietnam, but can still be dangerous. That’s mainly true if the guar is cornered and feels threatened, when it’s been known to charge directly at targets with its thick horns at high speed. For the most part, though, these are peaceful and serene animals that like to keep to themselves.

Some quick facts about the beefy guar:

  • Max. speed of 35mph
  • Extremely heavy weighing between 1,000-1,600kg
  • Large horns that can cause a lot of damage

White-lipped viper

white-lipped viper
Photo by PetlinDmitry from Envato Elements
  • Latin name: Trimeresurus albolabris
  • Attacks: Bite, powerful venom
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: Forests
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The white-lipped viper, closely related to the pit viper, is endemic to Southeast Asia and just one of many dangerous snakes in the region. They tend to stick to bamboo forests and thrive in a dense bushland habitat. That’s just the sort of thing that Vietnam has in abundance, especially in the riparian lands around the meandering Mekong River, but also up in the lush hills of Sa Pa.

The snake can be a nightmare to spot in those places. The reason? Let’s put it this way – if it was a Dulux paint it would be called “tropical rainforest green”. The only demarcations are a yellowish-white stripe down the length of its body. And, as the name suggests, a bright white can be seen lining the lips of the viper. But let’s hope you don’t get close enough to make them out!

The white-lipped viper is only a small snake. They typically grow between 600-800mm in length. The bite rarely causes death in humans but it’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure. The venom contains strong procoagulant properties and encounters lead to severe local swelling, intense pain, and blistering.

Yellow sac spider

yellow sac spider is one of the dangerous animals in vietnam
Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay 
  • Latin name: Cheiracanthium
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Local wound care, antivenom, anti-inflamatories
  • Where you find them: Forests, undergrowth
  • Conservation status: Least concern

No list of the most dangerous animals in Vietnam could possibly be complete without at least a nod to the eight-legged spiders that reside in this part of Indochina. Cue the yellow sac spider. It may be a small critter but there’s nothing small about the effect of their bite…

With fangs large enough to penetrate human skin, the yellow sac can draw on a venom that can lead to local necroses and tissue poisoning. The main danger is about the location of the contact. Anywhere around the spinal column or in key parts of the nervous system and you could be looking at some scary complications.

On the up side, there are no recorded cases of fatal bites from yellow sac spiders. The majority of incidents that do occur in Vietnam happen in outdoor areas, especially on jungle treks or while people are gardening.

Saltwater crocodile

saltwater crocodile
Photo credit: Chase Baker/Unsplash
  • Latin name: Crocodylus porosus
  • Attacks: Bite, death roll
  • Treatment: Hospitalization, wound care
  • Where you find them: Riparian habitats, mainly South Vietnam
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Just one glimpse at the dagger-like teeth rows of the saltwater croc should be enough to show that there’s no doubt these creatures are up there with the most dangerous animals in Vietnam. But there are more superlatives. The monstrous beasts are also the biggest living reptile on the planet; a veritable hangover from the age of the dinosaurs that can still be found wallowing on the muddy banks of rivers from Vietnam to the north coast of Australia all the way to the south tip of Sri Lanka.

There’s no denying that they’re a pretty formidable foe. Clocking up 0.2 tonnes of weight and rugby-player-dwarfing six meters in length from snout to tail, they’re not exactly a critter. More than that, saltwater crocs are uber-well-adapted for their habitat. A grey-brown color scheme combines with a low center of gravity and knobbly skin to make them camo kings. They’re also masters of the infamous death roll, which can tear flesh into pieces in a matter of seconds.

However, it’s very unlikely you’ll come across one of these pre-historic leviathans during your travels in Nam’. Why? It’s generally thought that they’re all but extinct in this corner of Southeast Asia due to over hunting and habitat loss. If they do exist, it will most likely be in the warmer south of the country near the wetlands of the Mekong Delta.

King cobra

King Cobra
Photo: Mohan Moolepetlu/Unsplash
  • Latin name: Ophiophagus hannah
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: All over Southeast Asia
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

Yep, sorry ophidiophobes, Vietnam is king cobra country. In fact, we’d say it’s the heart of king cobra country – the snake has a range that extends west from here to the rainforests of Myanmar and east to the fringes of Borneo and Indonesia. That said, it’s numbers in Nam’ aren’t as high as they once were, and encounters with humans in the land between HCMC and Hanoi are actually reassuringly rare.

Arguably the most feared of all the snakes on the planet, king cobras can grow to a length of more than five meters. Yep, five! They tend to live in lusher, wetter forested areas below 2,000 meters above sea level, where they usually hunt other snakes and small rodents.

When threatened, the king cobra will take up its iconic defensive posture. It’s not so much a yoga pose as a don’t-come-anywhere-near-me pose. Heed the warning, because the next step is a strike and a bite. Those could involve venom injection, and it’s venom you most certainly do not want injected – think a mix of cytotoxins and neurotoxins that will systematically shut down your vital organs in the lead up to paralysis, coma, and then death. It’s thought that around 28% of all king cobra bites end fatally.

Red-headed krait

Photo by touchthestove/Wikimedia/CC-4
  • Latin name: Azemiops
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: All over Southeast Asia, especially in rivers and wet rainforests
  • Conservation status: least Concern

Let’s put it this way: You cannot miss the red-headed krait. Topped by a fiery dash of vermillion, the species has a glowing scarlet head that can be spotted in a second. They are semi-aquatic, so live in both water and forest, and cover the whole of the Southeast Asian peninsula, from the hills of northern Thailand to the islands of Vietnam on the South China Sea. However, they are considered very rare, with just a fraction of reported sightings of the more common snake species.

When it comes to venom, it’s worth remembering that this one’s a krait. Kraits are widely considered to have some of the strongest and deadliest venom of the whole serpent kingdom. It’s a powerful neurotoxin that acts to paralyze its prey, shutting down vital respiratory organs to lead to asphyxiation and death. Before that, though, victims will suffer from several stages of envenomation, including hypersalivation, nausea, and bilateral ptosis (a condition that means you can’t keep your eyelids open!).

The good news is that the red-headed krait is very uncommon. What’s more, it’s thought to be a rather lethargic snake. Despite its formidable red head, it rarely faces up to attack humans and prefers to remain totally hidden during the day.

Fea’s viper

Photo by TimVickers/Wikimedia/Public Domain
  • Latin name: Azemiops
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: The hills and mountains of Vietnam
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Growing up to 80 cm in length, the elegant dark-purple and black Azemiops is a strange example of a pit viper that doesn’t really act like a pit viper at all. It’s large head and oversized head scales have lead herpetologists to classify it as all sorts. But there’s no question that it’s a member of the venom-touting genus, even though it might not look the part.

Azemiops is now more commonly known as the Fea’s viper. Named for the Italian explorer who first crossed its path in the late 1800s, probably somewhere in Burma, it’s extremely elusive and thought to live primarily in highland habitats (anything up to 1,000 meters above sea level) between the Kachin Hills of Burma and the South China Sea.

Sadly, hardly anything is known about the venom that Fea’s vipers possess. There just haven’t been enough bites to properly record and study the effect on humans. However, if other vipers are anything to go by, we wouldn’t want to be the one to help folk find out what’s involved!

Bonus: Dangerous flora in Vietnam

dangerous flora in vietnam
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

It’s not just about the dangerous animals in Vietnam. There’s also deadly flora. Yep, we know, deadly plants! In fact, move over Costa Rica, because this part of Southeast Asia has some seriously strange blooms and vines in its jungles. Some of the growers in the forests that we’d say to watch out for are listed in the table below:

Plant NameCharacteristics
Low-hanging vinesConstricting and trapping of unsuspecting innocents on hikes and canoe trips.
Heartbreak grassTwisted vine with yellow/orange flowers with five petals, causes asphyxiation and death if ingested.
Flame liliesFlame-like petals that form a cage flower, colors range from yellow to burning red and is highly toxic to humans and animals.
Twisted cord flowersAlso called forest poisoned rope, long red tendrils fall from a white and pink flower.

Are there tigers in Vietnam?

Small numbers of Indochinese tigers can be found in the northern evergreen forests of Vietnam. Due to a lack of conservation action from the government, tigers have been poached and driven to near extinction across Asia and especially Vietnam. There are now only about 200 tigers scattered throughout north Vietnam.

Are there bears in Vietnam?

Small populations of Asiatic black bears and sun bears are found across Vietnam. The Vietnamese government recognizes these bears need protection with conservation action and the control of commercial hunting. The black bear is now listed on the Red Book of endangered species in Vietnam.

Are there venomous snakes in Vietnam?

Vietnam has an extensive list of snakes, many of which are venomous. Bites from certain cobras, kraits, or vipers can lead to serious illness or even death. Statistics show 30,000 people each year are treated in Vietnamese hospitals for snake bites.

Some of the most venomous snakes in Vietnam are:

  • White-lipped viper
  • Fea’s Viper
  • Malayan Krait, also called Common Krait or Blue Krait
  • Red River Krait
  • Malayan Pit Viper
  • Thai Spitting Cobra

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Hi! I'm Abigail, a surfer, traveller, and nature lover. I'm from the UK but have been able to call Bali home for several years. I've backpacked across Australia on a shoestring budget, explored European coastlines, and taken in the sights across the pond and down into South America. My travel wishlist keeps growing the more I explore our perfect planet!