The most dangerous animals in Egypt aren’t something to be taken lightly. So, if we could just interrupt your dreams of the great Pyramids of Giza and the stunning ancient temples of Luxor for a moment, we’ve got all the info on the most feared beasts in this corner of Africa. Our selection ranges from biting crocs to poisonous snakes, all in an effort to warn readers of the critters that might pose a danger in the land of the wiggling River Nile…
The Nile crocodile might be named after Egypt’s great waterway, but these hulking reptiles can be found in a whopping 26 different countries. Strangely, they have a relatively small spread in Egypt itself, being largely limited to the south-east of the country. Beyond that, they have significant populations as far afield as South Africa, the Congo and Ghana.
Nile crocs can grow a mega five and a half meters in length in some cases. That puts them up there with the biggest crocodilian species on the whole planet. Males are bigger than females, and they weigh more to boot – up to 700kgs is within the normal range. Attacks on humans aren’t actually uncommon, though most incidents occur outside of Egypt in other parts of the continent. More than half of all attacks prove fatal and there are estimated to be around 500 each year in total. They have excellent camouflage and a uber-strong bite with teeth that have evolved to slice and tear up living tissue.
The Egyptian cobra is a species of elapidae snake that actually lives all throughout North Africa. It prefers the areas on the fringes of the Sahara Desert, so the Nile Delta and Mediterranean coast are particular hotspots. Most of the bites from these guys occur in agricultural settings, because the snake loves wet, grassy fields – exactly the sort that are farmed around the River Nile. Their bite is very dangerous, involving a combo of cytotoxin and neurotoxin that can lead to complete heart failure.
Interestingly, the Egyptian cobra has a long-held place in the mythology and folklore of the country. It was the symbolic animal of the god Meretseger and became an icon of the pharaoh’s power back in ancient times. It’s also thought that the queen Cleopatra used an Egyptian cobra to commit suicide back in 30 BC after failing to agree terms with the future Roman emperor Octavian.
Surprised to see the much-loved hippo on our list of the most dangerous animals in Egypt? Don’t be. They might have something of a cartoon friendliness about them, but these galumphing river mammals are pretty dangerous when they feel threatened. In fact, they’re known to kill a whopping 500 people per year in Africa! Attacks take the form of up to four tons of weight bearing down, coupled with an iron-lock bite that’s got the power of 2,000 pounds per square inch (that’s double a lion’s!).
On the flip side, there are virtually zero hippos left in Egypt these days. Historical finds show that they were once hunted by the pharaohs as a sort of ritual killing to showcase the triumph of good over evil. Numbers have since declined rapidly and the great beast is extremely rare in the land of the pyramids. The only significant populations are much further south down the course of the Nile, closer to the Al-Sudd province of South Sudan.
Ah, the mozzie. This pinprick of a flier is most certainly up there with the most dangerous animals in Egypt. But that’s not for its huge bite or potent venom. Instead, it’s for the diseases it can carry and spread. Malaria is the most obvious one to be worried about. However, Egypt actually has pretty good stats on that front. There have been very few major outbreaks of the disease recorded in the last few decades and the WHO currently doesn’t recommend the need for anti-malarial medication.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s always a risk of malarial transmission and some cases have popped up, particularly around the Aswan region, in recent years. More than that, malaria ain’t the only risk when it comes to mosquitos in Egypt. More dangerous is the threat from West Nile fever. Though rare, it causes death in around 10% of cases and leads to debilitating, flu-like symptoms that can take up to three months to shake.
Calling all divers and scuba lovers – beware the lionfish of the Red Sea. They might look beautiful, but their stings certainly aren’t. Striped in an orangey brown with a base of chalky white, these guys use their otherworldly coloring to warn off potential predators. The reason for the big hazard sign is the 11 dorsal fins, which each contain and strong venom. Once ingested, it can cause debilitating neurological symptoms, from seizures to sweating. Death is also a risk in some cases, so medical advice is always the way to go.
Although native to the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific, lionfish are known to be serious ecological threats elsewhere around the globe. They’re currently having huge impacts on the food chains in the Caribbean Sea, for example. Conservationists have also recently spotted invasive populations in the Mediterranean Sea. There’s one sub type of scorpionfish (the main genus of the lionfish) known as the Red Sea walkman that’s particularly dangerous but also particularly common in the eastern seas of Egypt.
Black desert cobra
The black desert cobra, or walterinnesia aegyptia, has a geographical spread that rolls all over the Middle East. Egypt is actually right on the western end of that, with most of these snakes found in Lebanon, the Levant, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. As the name implies, they like the desert. Dry, dusty, arid climates are perfect, such as the ones that feather off the Sahara to cover much of central Egypt.
The snakes are known to clock up average lengths of around half a meter. They are completely covered in a single hue of dusky black, with back-pointing scales that run right to the tip of the tail. Nocturnal, these guys go hunting after dark, which is one of the reasons that attacks involving humans are so rare. That said, they are highly venomous, dwarfing even the Indian cobra in terms of deadliness. The reason for that is a strong neurotoxin that can cause death and disruption of critical organ systems.
What is the most dangerous animal in Egypt?
The most dangerous animal in Egypt is the the Nile crocodile. The second largest crocodilian species on Earth, it’s thought to be responsible for up to 500 attacks and hundreds of human deaths each year. It’s a big creature but comes with a fantastic camouflage and a bite that you simply won’t want to see in action. Thankfully for travelers to the home of the pyramids, there aren’t actually that many Nile crocs in Egypt itself. They mainly reside around the south and east of the country, on muddy riverbanks and swamps.
Are there venomous snakes in Egypt?
There are many venomous snakes in Egypt. The most famous of the bunch has to be the Egyptian cobra. It’s got a mustardy brown coloring and a body that grows up to 1.5 meters on average. As you’d expect from a cobra, there’s a fanned head and neck area, along with a pretty formidable poison that can cause complete shutdown of the nervous system. The Egyptian cobra is famously thought to be responsible for the death of Cleopatra back in ancient times. We’d also say keep an eye out for the black desert cobra, which is highly venomous, the spitting viper, which can spit its venom at prey, and the rust-red and orange saw-scaled viper. They’re just a taster of the dangerous snakes in Egypt!
Are there dangerous spiders in Egypt?
When it comes to dangerous spiders in Egypt, most people warn of the dreaded camel spider. They’re said to chase humans and even disembowel camels. However, most of that is folklore. The truth is that camel spiders aren’t actually spiders at all. They’re a type of arachnid, but not quite the same genetically speaking as they’re eight-legged compadres. On top of that, they don’t have any venom but are pretty adept bloodsuckers. Egypt – like much of the world – also has populations of the brown widow spider and the black widow, which both have venomous bites but rarely cause death in humans.
Are there bears in Egypt?
No longer, perhaps. One report made by the Venetian scientist Prospero Alpini way back in 1738 described a bijou sized Egyptian bear that was no larger than a lamb. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus also talks about Egyptian bears. However, modern researchers cast doubt on the notion that any type of bear has ever existed in this corner of Africa. They say that any sightings are likely to have been Syrian bears, which have a geographical range covering the Middle East.
Are there lions in Egypt?
There were once upon a time. For the ancients, the lion was a symbol of great importance, representing the God-given power of the pharaohs. Still, it’s thought that populations of the revered plains king were pretty sparse even then. Later centuries saw the gradual migration of Egyptian lions further south. That was due to habitat change, as the prides went in search of the lusher grasslands throughout the Rift Valley and beyond.
Are there crocodiles in Egypt?
Yes. Egypt sits at the north-eastern extremity of the range of the Nile crocodile. They’re both one of the largest and one of the deadliest crocodilian creatures on the globe. They tend to live in muddy, semi-aquatic areas around the sides of riverways. Oh, and they’re thought to be responsible for anything upwards of 250 human deaths a year on the continent, though many attacks go totally unrecorded. Just try to keep a healthy distance!
The most dangerous animals in Egypt: A conclusion
There’s a really eclectic mix of dangerous animals in Egypt. Famous examples include the slithering Egyptian cobra, which is known around the globe as the serpent used by Cleopatra to commit suicide. Then you’ve got the beefy likes of the Nile crocodile, which is thought to kill great numbers of humans throughout Africa every year. On top of that come buzzy mosquitoes that carry disease and venomous fish that patrol the resplendent coral gardens of the Red Sea around Sharm El-Sheikh.