Some of the animal world’s most fearsome predators have finally had it with humans.
Last week, the owner of a safari lodge in South Africa was mauled to death by three of the big cats on his reserve.
Leon van Bijon, owner of the Mahal View Lion Lodge in Cullinan was killed by his own captive lions as he attempted to fix a broken fence.
Witnesses tried to rescue van Bijon, known widely as the “The Lion Man,” but the owner succumbed to his injuries.
The three cats were shot so that rescuers could retrieve his body.
The latest incident is hardly an isolated one. In March, a Czech man was mauled by a lion he illegally kept as a pet in his backyard.
Two months earlier, a 22-year old zookeeper in North Carolina was attacked and killed by a lion while she was cleaning its pen.
Since 1990, 24 people have been killed by captive big cats in the United States. Four of them were children, including a 10-year-old North Carolina boy who was mauled by his uncle’s 400-pound tiger as he shoveled snow near the tiger’s cage.
Overall, there have been nearly 400 attacks by big cats on humans, about half involving tigers, not lions. And their number is growing.
Bear attacks ion humans are also becoming more frequent. Most often they occur out in the wild while humans are hiking or hunting.
Sometimes the human victims attempted to become too friendly with the bear – with disastrous results. In a May 2018 incident in India, a man foolishly tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear and was mauled to death. A video of the attack went viral.
However, the biggest source of big predator attacks on humans in the United States involve alligators, primarily in Florida.
According to Inside Science, a science news publication, gator bites in Florida “have been on the rise, increasing from an average of just one every three years between 1988 and 1999 to about seven per year between 2000 and 2016.”
That’s something like a 20-fold increase over the past 15 years. Phenomenal.
Some experts blame the animal attack problem on human population growth. Animal habitats are shrinking and humans and animals are running into each other more often. And some animal populations are growing, too.
This is clearly a factor in the rise in alligator attacks, especially in Florida. As greedy real estate investors have pushed housing developments further into remote areas, residents increasingly attract the attention of gators, with often grisly results.
Birds are also feeling the pressure from humans, especially during mating season, and are responding in kind. Remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name? It’s not just a dark film fantasy.
Mail carriers in Vancouver, Canada have been attacked repeatedly by bands of roving crows. Last year, it got so bad that the city post office stopped delivering letters for a while, citing the danger to its employees. (Crow Trax, begun in 2015, actually records crow attacks worldwide).
Another great human fear is attack by sharks. They’re not that frequent, in fact – 57 in 2015 — but their number is sharply on the rise, too. Across a number of coastal resort areas, attacks have doubled over the past few years, according to data compiled by the Global Shark Attack File.
Paradoxically, the animals that seem to inspire the most fear in humans aren’t our greatest danger. Insects, especially wasps, hornets, bees, ticks, and mosquitoes, are.
Between 1999 and 2007, just 17 people in the US were reported to have died from alligator and shark attacks combined — compared to over 650 that died from insect stings and bites.
In fact, insects account for 33% of all deaths of adults 20 years and older.
While increased proximity to wild animals and insects may explain some of the latest attack trends, there seems to a growing antipathy toward humans.
Animals, it seems, are getting royally pissed off at how we slaughter, enslave and cage them, and taunt them in captivity – and they’ve simply had enough.
Many just can’t stand the sight, sound, and smell of us.
In fact, even our traditional pets are getting in on the action.
From 1999 to 2012, there was an 82% increase in fatal dog attacks. Over roughly the same period, there was an 86% increase in dog bite-related hospitalization stays.
Most of the victims of dog attacks turn out to be defenseless children. In fact, data collected by the APSCA indicates that about half of all children will be bitten by a dog by age 12.
The latest danger? Chimpanzees.
Considered our closest evolutionary cousins, recent research has depicted them as “natural-born killers.” Thanks in part to illegal traders and exotic pet owners, chimp attacks on humans are also on the rise.
That blood-curdling howl you hear far off in the distance?
Beware: It could be Caesar calling.