The 7 Most Dangerous Animals in Barbados

dangerous animals in barbados
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
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The island of Barbados is a subtropical paradise, brimming with wildlife. It may come as a pleasant surprise, then, that there is generally a lack of dangerous animals in Barbados. 

In the past, there may well have been many more deadly creatures to be found, but much of the native fauna has been destroyed by human activity on the island, such as hunting, pollution and the destruction of habitats to make way for tourist resorts. Nevertheless, there are a few creatures that tourists ought to be wary of while visiting Barbados. From centipedes to mongooses, you’ll find that danger comes from the most unexpected of creatures.

Though some of these animals might not strike fear into your heart at a first glance, if they are provoked things can quickly turn ugly. So, let’s check out the 7 most dangerous animals in Barbados.

Stonefish

Stonefish
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Some visitors to Barbados might be unlucky enough to encounter a stonefish. This fish is one of the most dangerous animals in Barbados. The most deadly of all 1200 species of venomous fish, they also possess great camouflage, allowing them to blend seamlessly into the seabed.

Every stonefish has thirteen spines on its back, each shaped like a hypodermic needle and with the sharpness to travel through a flip-flop. Once a spine punctures the skin, a dose of venom is released though the spine, causing excruciating pain. 15mg of venom can be fatal to humans and each spine contains between 5-10mg. Thankfully, an effective antivenom is readily available at hospitals. You should seek this out as soon as possible

As the stonefish will usually hide close to coral and rocky reef systems, take extra care and be sure to wear shoes if you happen to venture into their habitats. It’s also possible to come across stonefish on the beach: capable of surviving over 24 hours outside of water, the tide sometimes washes these fish onto the shore.

Surprisingly, stonefish do not actually use their spines for hunting, but as a defence mechanism against potential predators. Their method of hunting is perhaps even more terrifying: they wait for their prey to swim close by before engulfing it in their huge jaws. Fortunately, human are far too big to be swallowed by stonefish! Nonetheless, these critters are some of the most dangerous animals in Barbados, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

The giant African land snail

The giant African land snail often carries nasty parasites
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The giant African land snail was first recognised in Barbados in 2002. From the first sighting, the snail population grew exponentially due to its ability to lay up to 1,200 eggs per year. Aside from its ugly appearance, the snail proves a nuisance for local farmers as it eats around 500 species of locally-grown crops.

Far more dangerous, however, is the snail’s tendency to carry a parasite, angiostrongylus cantonensis, which may cause meningitis and severe brain damage. The Bajan response to this population spiralling out of control was remarkably effective. The island authorities decided to start a giant African snail bounty programme, whereby they encouraged people to capture snails for a reward.

From 2009 to 2013, around 400 tonnes of snails – equal to around 12 million individuals – were destroyed under the program. Although it appears that the snail population is now under control, in order to steer clear of infection, it’s still worth keeping an eye out for these snails and avoiding them.

The Giant Centipede

The giant centipede packs a painful punch
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Undoubtedly the scariest of all creepy-crawlies on Barbados is the giant centipede. Feared by the locals, they pack a very painful but generally non-lethal bite and measure around 15-20cm. Usually found in pairs, they are also blind. If encountered, locals advise either avoiding or stepping on them with a sturdy pair of shoes.

Do not attempt to cut it into pieces as it will carry on moving and likely be extremely angry! It may not sound appealing, but you can soothe a centipede bite by rubbing it with a raw onion. Allergic reactions are possible but rare.

Mongoose

Mongoose look cute, but are ferocious hunters
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The human introduction of the mongoose in the 19th century means that today, there are very few species of snake in Barbados. When rats threatened the country’s sugar cane industry in the 1870s, natives brought in mongooses in order to cull the rats. Some questioned the decision at the time as rats are nocturnal while the mongooses are active during the day. The mongooses brought to the island were from India. You wouldn’t think it to look at them, but this species of Mongoose are able to eat venomous snakes. We are confident that ‘mongooses’ is the correct plural, but this has historically been a topic of contention.

Although a mongoose might not look particularly threatening, they are in fact excellent predators. They are quick, cunning, and agile, and have the advantages of a thick coat of fur, as well as sharp teeth and claws; most importantly, however, the Indian variety has developed a natural immunity to snake venom. These assets help them to hunt even the most dangerous of snakes, such as the king cobra. They hunt by dodging until their adversary tires, then biting on the neck. Usually, mongooses do not behave aggressively towards humans. If threatened, though, they sometimes attack. 

Lionfish

Lionfish are beautiful yet dangerous
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If you see a fish with stunning multicoloured spines, resist the temptation to get too close! A perfect reflection of the ocean’s simultaneous beauty and danger, lionfish spines hold a toxin that has evolved specifically to cause pain in the sting victim. Although not deadly, the venom will cause severe pain and sometimes triggers temporary paralysis.

Although they are originally from the Indo-Pacific ocean, lionfish are now an invasive species in the Caribbean. This is thought to be a result of specimens bought as aquarium fish being released into the sea off the coast of Florida in the 1980s. Outside of the Indo-Pacific, the lionfish has no natural predators; this has meant that the population has swelled since their release into the Atlantic waters.

Not only do they pose a threat to humans, but also to marine life: in the nearby Bahamas, the lionfish is responsible for the destruction of 65 to 95% of local fish. Fortunately, this type of decimation has yet to reach Barbados, but more and more lionfish sightings reported in the last decade are a cause for concern.

The Barbados green monkey

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The Barbados green monkey, although generally not aggressive towards humans, can be a dangerous foe if threatened. Like most monkeys, they possess a serious bite which can cause further problems such as wound infection. Generally, the alpha males and females with babies are the most aggressive.

As long as tourists keep a distance, though, the monkeys should pose no threat. The monkey’s tendency to throw dung at people should further encourage people to maintain a respectful distance.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can carry deadly diseases
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Although mosquitos might generally be considered more annoying than dangerous, travellers ought to be wary of them. Due to the diseases that they can inflict, mosquitos are actually one of the most dangerous animals in Barbados. Bajan mosquitos can carry yellow fever and, more prevalently, dengue fever.

The island suffered a dengue epidemic in 1998, causing great concern amongst residents. It is advisable to pack some insect repellent if planning a trip to Barbados.

Are there any venomous snakes in Barbados?

There are no venomous snakes in Barbados. The only recorded sightings of venomous snakes in Barbados correspond to sea snakes seen in the water.

However, there are a handful of non-venomous snake in Barbados: The Barbados threadsnake, apparently unique to Barbados, is the smallest species of snake known to man. Roughly the same width as a spaghetti noodle, these snakes are most unlikely to cause any harm to humans. The non-venomous Barbados racer snake, also known as the tan ground snake, lived in Barbados up until 1963. According to a seventeenth-century account of the island, this was the most common animal at the time. The last sighting was over fifty years ago, meaning that today, the species is likely extinct. Commercial crop growth, with its associated deforestation and pesticide use, was largely responsible for the decline of the species.

Are there any crocodiles in Barbados?

There aren’t any crocodiles in Barbados. Although the crocodile-like caiman is present in some parts of the Caribbean there are none in Barbados.

Are there sharks in Barbados?

Shark sightings are generally very rare in Barbados. Fishermen heading towards the Atlantic Ocean off the North coast sometimes spot tiger sharks, but tourists would not usually experience this: people generally swim and bathe in the calm waters on the other side of the island. Aside from smaller, non-aggressive reef sharks, it is highly unlikely for anyone to come into contact with sharks in Barbados. This could be because the reefs surrounding the island act as a natural defence; also, sharks tend to prefer cooler waters than those found off the coast of Barbados.

Are there any venomous spiders in Barbados?

Although a variety of spiders live in Barbados, there is no record of any venomous spiders. Some locals welcome the presence of non-venomous spiders as they help to keep the local roach population in check.

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Charlotte Hanwell is a writer and travel enthusiast from London. Her studies of Spanish language and literature have taken her from Barcelona to Buenos Aires. In between travels, she loves to run, read and cook her way around the world.