Encountering Wild Animals on Your Travels
The Dangers of Wildlife
Every once in a while, you hear stories of people being mauled by wild animals being kept as pets: chimps, bears, tigers, etc... No matter how cute and cuddly they may look, it's important to remember that wild animals live on instinct, which don't always follow what we humans consider safe. On your travels, you might encounter wildlife and if wild animals can be dangerous when only one is being kept as a pet, imagine the danger a true wild animal can bring.
- Injury/Death by physical attacks
- Spread of Disease (ex: rabies)
- Dangerous fluids (ex: poison)
Interacting with Animals
Wild animals and humans aren't always so different. Like many people, creatures you encounter may not enjoy having their meal disturbed by camera flashes. Similarly, just as you wouldn't want someone interrupting you during your private moments, neither would an animal. It's important to give them space when they are eating, defecating, urinating, and even mating.
Many conservation and parks have guides that will instruct you on the best routes for safely viewing nearb wildlife, teach you how close you can get to animals, and provide you advice on dealing with potential danger. It is highly recommended to seek such guides during any trip near wildlife.
Purchasing books about the wildlife in the areas you are traveling to, and reading them carefully before reaching your destination, can also be helpful.
Stay far away
The best tip is to stay a few yards away from any animal. You need a pretty sizable distance. This is especially true if you see a baby animal as a parent is possibly nearby and may consider you a threat to the baby animal.
Do not touch habitats
You wouldn't want someone trespassing in your home and touching your belongings and neither would they. If you happen to stumble near what looks like a habitat, such as a bird nest or an ant farm, pretend there's a "do not disturb" sign and leave the habitat alone. More importantly, other animals may know of these areas and come to them for hunting; you wouldn't want to become a prey.
Get a high-quality camera
Get a camera that can take great pictures with no flash and minimal (ideally no) sound.
Do not feed wild animals no matter how friendly.
One of my relatives had a friend who went on a safari-type adventure. Although she had been advised not to feed the animals, she couldn't resist feeding an adorable giraffe. Sadly, the giraffe thought she had more food and bit her hand. Thankfully, she didn't lose it as she was able to quickly get it back. However, the giraffe attempted to bite more through the open car window. This was a dangerous experience for both the human and the giraffe (as it almost hurt itself when she tried to close the car window)
If you have to feed a wild animal, do not feed from your hand. Put down food neither near you nor the animal; place a few feet away from the animal. The animal may not eat if it sees you are watching. This means you may need to step away.
Do not turn your back away from an attentive animal
Even if you are stepping away from a wild animal, especially one that has noticed you, you should not turn your back. Keep facing the animal and step backward. This way if the animal attacks, you can still use your hands and feet to defend yourself. If you turn away, you may not be able to and this means your neck will be left vulnerable to potentially life-threatening attacks.
Size Doesn't Matter
Don't think that just because an animal is small that it means the risk of danger is any less. Even small animals such as squirrels and raccoons will attack you when they feel threatened. Other small wildlife, from innocent looking insect, plants, and exotic furry creatures will react the same.
What to do in case of an animal attack
The Curl Ball
- Lower yourself
- Curl yourself in a ball-like position (feet still on ground)
- Use hands and arms to protect neck and head as best as you can
- Keep gaps closed
An animal might give up on killing you if it has difficulty biting you. The curl will provide difficulty.
We all know that playing dead is an option. However, playing dead can leave many vital body parts open for attack. It is still an option, but be wary that if the animal is already enraged, it will want to "check" your death by attacking limbs and/or the head.