9 Dangerous Animals In Peru Hiding In The Shadows

dangerous animals in peru
Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash
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Dense, dark, and full of deadly animals – Peru has one of the wildest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Around 60% of Peru is dominated by rainforests with both the Amazon and the Andes covering the land. So what dangerous animals in Peru are hiding in the shadows?

This South American nation is among the world’s top 10 megadiverse countries due to its proximity to the equator creating wet tropical conditions. The long North-South extension offers climatic variation within the rainforest, similar to the habitats for dangerous animals in Chile. Peru’s coastline is also home to several endemic species, along with the three distinct regions across the country divided up by the Andes.

Some of the most dangerous animals in Peru are so small that they can hide in plain sight without going detected. Others are incredibly skilled at hunting, so much so that you wouldn’t notice being measured up for size. The jaguar is Peru’s big cat that prowls the jungle, with jaws strong enough to pierce skulls. However, this solitary animal tends to stay in the full depths of the Amazon, meaning attacks on humans are rare.

Nonetheless, whether you’re exploring the famed Machu Picchu or hiking the Inca Trail, being on high alert while exploring Peru is always a good idea for survival. You never know which of these most dangerous animals in Peru is just around the corner.

Poison Dart Frog

A golden poison dart frog is the most dangerous animal in Peru
Photo by Ruben Engel on Unsplash
Latin NamePhyllobates terribilis
Fatal WeaponsExtremely potent toxic excreted on the skin
TreatmentNo antidote, the body must fight by itself
Where To Find ThemWet areas of the rainforest, ie. marshes, streams, rivers, lakes, and swamps
IUCN StatusNo concern

Poison dart frogs are perhaps one of the world’s most deadly animals. The poison they pack (batrachotoxin) is powerful enough to kill up to seven men, delivering a toxic attack even in minuscule quantities. Toxin from a poison dart frog can kill any animal, including humans, in less than three minutes and there is no antidote. However, it’s not all bad – scientists are researching the toxic and possible uses for pain relief.

On average, a poison dart frog is only 15mm in length (some known to have grown up to 6cm). However, once the frog is spotted, identifying these poisonous frogs is straightforward. They come in a variety of colors, all bright and vibrant as a warning about the potent toxic found on their skin.

You’ll find gold, copper, red, blue, or green poison dart frogs across Peru, Argentina, and other South American countries. The golden poison dart frog is the most dangerous and poisonous variety. If you are unlucky to come into contact with the frog poison, you’ll experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Muscular paralysis
  • Nausea
  • Death

Poison dart frogs can be found throughout the jungle, especially around the Amazonian marshes, lakes, swamps, streams, and rivers. The best thing to do is steer clear of these tiny yet powerful amphibians! Be careful where you’re putting your hands when exploring the depths of the Peruvian jungle.

Amazonian Giant Centipede

giant centipede on the cement floor, with powerful and dangerous forcipules
Photo by anankkml from Envanto Elements
Latin NameScolopendra gigantea
Fatal WeaponsStrong toxic administered through forcipules bite
TreatmentUse a hot compress to dilute the venom, followed by ice packs to reduce any swelling
Where To Find ThemSheltered areas in dark and damp jungle spaces
IUCN StatusThreatened

A creature worthy of a leading role in a Stephen King novel, the giant yellow-leg Peruvian centipede, also known as the Amazonian giant centipede, can grow up to 30 cm in length. They prey on a large variety of animals and feed on whatever they manage to kill. These killer creatures climb the ceilings of caves to hold and manipulate their prey like bats, administering a lethal toxin from the forcipules.

The giant centipede is also extremely aggressive and is known to have attacked people that cross its path. A four-year-old child was reported to have been killed by the centipedes’ venom.

Luckily, the centipede doesn’t make a regular habit of adding humans to their meal plan. These creature’s diet is based on invertebrates and also larger creatures like lizards, snakes, frogs, mice, bats, and sparrow-sized birds found in the rainforest. It can overpower and kill creatures larger than itself.

This arthropod thrives in the shadows of the Peruvian tropical jungle. They are typically found in the dark and damp corners, under shelter and awaiting their unsuspecting victim.

Brazilian Wandering Spider

The Brazilian Wandering Spider is a dangerous animal in Peru that has a powerful toxic bite
Photo by kjwells86 from Envanto Elements
Latin NamePhoneutria
Fatal WeaponsPowerful venom administered through bite
TreatmentSeek medical attention for the antidote to the spider bite
Where To Find ThemSheltered areas in dark spaces, often found in homes and other urban areas
IUCN StatusNot listed

One of the most dangerous arachnids in the world is the Brazilian wandering spider. Bites from these spiders contain a powerful neurotoxin that can lead to serious respiratory paralysis as well as excruciating pain for the unfortunate victim. An antidote was only recently discovered in 1996, a year when a recorded 14 people died from the Brazilian wandering spider bite.

Identifying the Brazilian wandering spider can be challenging, especially as they are more active during the night. The body is typically around 2 inches with the leg span being a more notable 6 inches. Colors can vary, but most are brown with a yellowish band down the back. All Brazilian wandering spiders are hairy and fast movers!

These arachnids give plenty of warning before they strike into an attack. They raise their body onto their hind legs and expose their red jaws – a defensive posture in the spider world. A venomous bite from a wandering spider can cause the following reactions:

  • Loss of muscle control
  • Respiratory paralysis
  • Inflammation
  • Death

As the name suggests, these spiders can be found across Peru and other South American nations. They prefer to crawl on the floor of the jungle looking for prey during the night but have also been known to wander into human settlements. These spiders can remain hidden in houses and cars, quietly building nests unbeknown to the homeowners. Banana farms and importers from South America have to be careful as sometimes the wandering spiders have settled in bunches.

Bullet Ant

Photo by Erin Mills from Wikicommons
Latin NameParaponera Clavata
Fatal WeaponsPoneratoxin in a sting/bite
TreatmentUse a hot compress to dilute the venom, followed by ice packs to reduce any swelling
Where To Find ThemForest floors and trees
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Bullet worker ants can grow up to 1.2 inches in length and have no limit to their sting. They are not naturally aggressive but have one of the most painful stings ever recorded. The bullet ant sting releases poneratoxin, a compound that disrupts synapses in the central nervous system causing the following side effects:

  • Nerve confusion
  • Intense pain lasting more than 12 hours
  • Swelling at the area of the bite

Typically after 24 hours, the toxin is flushed out of the body. This means that the pain can last a full day, however, the intense sensation typically subsides around 12 hours. There are no reports of deaths from bullet ant stings, perhaps because it would take at least 250 stings to kill an average-sized adult.

That being said, we still advise you to avoid receiving a sting from one of these dangerous animals in Peru. The Schmidt sting pain index ranks the bullet ant’s sting as one of the most painful, above that of a tarantula hawk wasp sting. Some victims have claimed the pain of being shot by a bullet is comparable to that of a bullet being hit by the bullet, which explains the name’s origin. Whereas others have likened the intense pain to walking over flaming charcoal with a 3″ nail in your heel.

Mosquito

Photo by twenty20photos from Envanto Elements
Latin NameAedes albopictus
Fatal WeaponsCarriers of vector-borne diseases transmitted via a bite
TreatmentVaccinations and medication available from medical professionals
Where To Find ThemClose to water sources, such as rivers, lakes, and marshes
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Mosquitos are one of the most dangerous insects found globally. These tiny buzzing bugs are more than just annoying, they act as the vectors of diseases like malaria and yellow fever. Tourists to the Amazon rainforest are advised to take all necessary precautions to avoid mosquitoes bites.

Yellow fever vaccinations and mosquito repellant creams are among the best measures to prevent mosquitoes bites in the jungle. Also wearing long-sleeved tops and pants while in the rainforest is helpful. Some medical practitioners may advise taking malaria tablets either before your trip or in the event of being bitten.

The Amazon has a huge population of mosquitos. Its hot, humid, and tropical rainforest provides the most ideal conditions for mosquitos to thrive.

Black Caiman

Photo by BiacheB from Wiki Commons
Latin NameMelanosuchus niger
Fatal WeaponsPowerful jaws and territorial behavior
TreatmentSeek urgent medical attention if you are attacked
Where To Find ThemClose to water sources, such as rivers, lakes, and marshes
IUCN StatusThreatened

Lurking in lakes, slow-moving rivers, and flooded savannahs is the black caiman. This powerful reptile is considered the biggest predator in the Peruvian ecosystem. It feeds on a variety of birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals.

Black caimans are capable of taking any animal that unknowingly ventures into its territory, and that includes humans. Between 2008 and 2013, 43 people have been attacked by black caimans. Thankfully less than one-fifth of these attacks on humans were fatal.

These dangerous animals can grow up to a staggering 6 meters in length. They look very similar to the American alligator except for the clear difference of color. Its jaws are extremely powerful, which they use to grab prey to drown, not chew.

Green Anaconda

The iconic man eater anaconda is the largest and most dangerous animals in Peru
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Latin NameEunectes murinus
Fatal WeaponsPowerful constricting body powerful enough to crush and suffocate victims
TreatmentSeek urgent medical attention if you are attacked
Where To Find ThemClose to water sources, such as rivers, lakes, and marshes
IUCN StatusNot evaluated

The green anaconda is the largest non-venomous snake in the world and is found across most of South America. These giants average 20 to 30 feet in length and can weigh up to 550 pounds. Anacondas are found in swamps, lakes, and marshes across Peru – so it’s highly advisable not to go swimming in the jungle!

Despite being incredibly large, these snakes have mastered the art of camouflage. They blend in perfectly with the jungle environment and are often submerge the bulk of their body in water. This harmony with the natural environment makes the anaconda one of the most dangerous animals in Peru and Latin America.

Anacondas use their size and strength advantage to constrict their prey, breaking bones and suffocating their victims. They have a legendary status of being “man-eaters”, however, attacks on humans are not common. These enormous snakes feast on deer, birds, wild pigs, and even jaguars.

Electric Eel

Photo by Oleksandr (Alex) Zakletsky from Wiki Commons
Latin NameElectrophorus electricus
Fatal WeaponsElectrical charge that is powerful enough to stun large mammals
TreatmentSeek urgent medical attention if you are attacked
Where To Find ThemFreshwater locations in the rainforest
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Sticking with the waters of Peru, next up is the electric eel. Strictly not an eel, but rather a species of knife fish that is capable of stunning an adult human with its powerful electrical charge. Three pairs of abdominal organs allow it to generate a shock of up to 600 volts.

There are cases in which the electric eel has stunned horses, caiman, and other large mammals. Fatal attacks on humans are rare but not completely non-existent. A single jolt is enough to cause the person to stop breathing and potentially drown in shallow water. The shocking capability is a defense mechanism as well as a feature used to shock prey before consumption.

Electric eels can grow up to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 20 kg. They have a slender snake-like body shape and are typically dark in color, making them extremely camouflaged on riverbeds. Yet another reason to skip swimming in Peru!

Piranha

The piranha is one of the most dangerous animals in Peru waters
Photo by Marcus Dietachmair on Unsplash
Latin NamePygocentrus nattereri
Fatal WeaponsRazor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws
TreatmentSeek urgent medical attention if you are attacked
Where To Find ThemFreshwater locations in the rainforest
IUCN StatusLeast concern

And last but not least, piranhas! Piranhas are freshwater fish infamous for their powerful jaws and razor-sharp teeth. The black piranha’s bite is one of the most forceful bites among the animal kingdom. Despite the fish being reportedly so dangerous, local tribes have brought them to their tables and even created tools and weapons using the teeth and bones.

A piranhas bite can easily tear through all flesh including that of humans. In 2015, a girl’s body was found partly eaten by piranhas in Brazil! The girl was riding a boat with her grandmother when the boat capsized during a storm, leading to an extremely unfortunate feeding frenzy.

That being said, piranhas don’t make a habit of adding humans to their diet. They tend to stick to eating other fish, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, algae, and seeds. However, when hungry during the dry season, attacks and feeding frenzies are likely to happen.

Identifying piranhas is fairly clear. Most piranhas don’t grow more than 2 feet long and generally are dark in color with a deep red underbelly. They have deep bodies with blunt heads and scissor-like jaws.

FAQ

What is the most dangerous animal in Peru?

Considered one of, if not the most dangerous animals in Peru is the poison dart frog. The poison excreted by this amphibian can be fatal and there is no known antidote. This frog is also extremely small and can be difficult to see when exploring the jungle making an accidental encounter likely.

What is the most dangerous snake in Peru?

Anacondas are the most dangerous snakes in Peru due to their size and strength. These snakes don’t often hunt humans. However, they are capable of constricting the average-sized man, breaking bones, and suffocating the unfortunate victim. Often named the “man-eating snake”, this is clearly one of the most dangerous animals in Peru.

Are there any dangerous spiders in Peru?

There are several species of spiders in Peru that are considered dangerous. The most toxic to avoid at all costs is the Brazilian wandering spider. The bite is extremely painful and can result in muscle paralysis, respiratory issues, and even death which make these spiders one of the most dangerous animals in Peru.

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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!