In normal circumstances Buffalo are generally inoffensive and usually rather avoid confrontation. They are inquisitive, and individuals may break away from a herd to examine vehicles. If disturbed, they will race back to rejoin the herd, which is quick to stampede. Their tendency to stampede when frightened, often in unexpected directions, call be highly dangerous. Cows with small calves, old solitary bulls, bulls that have been hunted and wounded in the past, and those who are harassed can be dangerous and may charge without provocation. It is also dangerous to stumble across and startle Buffaloes resting in a thick patch of bush, since their reactions can be unpredictable. Avoid thickets and reeds in or near rivers. When you encounter Buffalo, stand still and move away slowly. If an aggressive Buffalo charges, it will complete the charge, so do not stand still. Try to climb a tree, since you won’t outrun it. The alarm calls of oxpeckers or egrets and the breaking of branches may be the first sign of a charging Buffalo, so be alert for those signs. A wounded Buffalo is extremely dangerous, and may even double back and lie in wait for its pursuer. When charging, only a fatal shot will stop it. While tracking Buffalo, remember that Lions may also be on the spoor and that you may well encounter the Lion before you find the Buffalo.


Of the more than 70 viruses and disease-carrying organisms known to be carried by ticks, tick-borne relapsing fever, tick-bite fever, Q-fever and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, and tick-bite paralysis represent the best known and most important tick-borne disease conditions in humans.

To avoid being bitten by ticks, wear long trousers and boots, with your socks tucked up over your trousers. Rubbing paraffin on your legs or using various tick repellants may help prevent them getting on your skin, if possible, avoid long grass, or when walking along a path, avoid brushing against the tips of long grass stems as ticks usually sit on these tips waiting for an animal to walk past. When you have moved through long grass, inspect your body for ticks. Don’t pull them off, since their heads may break off and remain underneath your skin. Burn them off with a cigarette, or smear them with vaseline, grease, commercial sealant, disinfectant or alcohol.

Tick-bite fever may develop about a week or two after the bite. The site of the bite may become swollen and red. The symptoms include listlessness, headache, fever and swollen glands.

The symptoms of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever include a sudden onset with fever, malaise, weakness, irritability, headache, severe pain in limbs and loins, and marked anorexia. Vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea occurs occasionally.

Soft ticks

The sand tampans live in sandy areas where shade is provided by trees or rock outcrops. They burrow beneath the surface of the sand, waiting for a potential host to rest in the shade. Humans are not very susceptible to the toxin but repeated bites over a period of time can result in hypersensitivity. If bitten again, hypersensitised individuals risk anaphylactic shock, which can result in death.

From A Field Guide to the Animal Tracks of Southern Africa by Louis Liebenberg

Bees and wasps

With repeated exposure to stings, some people become hypersensitive, after which another sting could be much worse, if not fatal. People allergic to bee and wasp venoms should not wear floral-scented cosmetics or nail varnish. The solvent (amyl acetate) in nail varnish is the alarm pheromone of bees and provokes aggression. Don’t wear brightly patterned clothes. If bees are about, remain calm and move slowly.


The tsetse-fly, which transmits sleeping-sickness, has been virtually eliminated in southern Africa and only small populations exist. The fly can inflict a painful bite, and the symptoms of the disease, which include headache and a fever, develop after about two weeks.


When visiting areas where Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) is found, contact with contaminated water should be avoided. Bilharzia is found in shallow water that is stagnant or flowing slowly, along the banks of rivers, dams and pools, and especially where plants are growing in the water. If you wet yourself with contaminated water, clean yourself immediately by rigorously rubbing yourself dry with a cloth. The parasite may penetrate the skin within minutes. Contaminated water should be boiled or purified before being used for drinking or washing. Bilharzia infection can be severely debilitating and unpleasant and is not easily cured. In rare cases it can go to the brain, with lethal results. As the skin is penetrated, the first symptoms may be a skin reaction, although this may be mild or may not even show. Other symptoms include persistent fatigue, bodily discomfort, fever and vague intestinal complaints. If in doubt, a doctor should be consulted.


Malaria is transmitted by the bite of an infective female anopheline mosquito. It occurs mainly in the summer and especially during years of good rainfall. Anti-malaria tablets should be taken before going into a potential malaria zone. In areas where malaria has become chloroquine-resistant, alternative drugs should be used. Pregnant women should avoid malarial areas.

Mosquitoes feed from dusk to the early hours of the morning. Camp on heights such as hills where a cool wind blows and where the grass is not very thick, away from standing water and not near densely vegetated areas at pans or rivers. Sleep under a mosquito net and use mosquito repellants. Fire and smoke help, and burning Elephant or cattle dung apparently drives mosquitoes away.

The symptoms appear approximately 12 days after the infective bite. Early symptoms include fever, chills, sweating and headache. Prompt treatment is essential even in mild cases, since irreversible complications may appear suddenly. If the early symptoms are not recognised, the victim may become critically ill with cerebral malaria.


Apart from the Buffalo, other antelopes that can be dangerous under certain circumstances include the Black Wildebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Tsessebe, Roan, Sable, Gemsbok, Eland and Bushbuck.

While usually inoffensive in the wilds, Black and Blue Wildebeest may become aggressive and dangerous in captivity. When cornered, they will defend themselves courageously.

Roan, Sable and Gemsbok can be aggressive and dangerous when wounded or cornered. They will charge when approached too closely. Their sharp horns can cause serious injuries, and Gemsbok may even spear to death large predators, dogs or humans.

Bushbuck can be very dangerous when cornered or wounded, and have been known to kill Leopards, dogs and even humans.


Old male Baboons are very powerful and have large canines. They may have unpredictable tempers and can quickly become aggressive if suddenly frightened or thwarted in any way. In areas where Baboons have become accustomed to humans, they can be aggressive, especially if people have been feeding them.

Rabid animals

Rabid animals are often characterised by unusual behaviour, which may include attacking humans. An animal may wander around aimlessly with saliva dribbling from the open mouth. Wild animals may appear tame or aggressive, or may show signs of convulsion or partial paralysis. Someone who has been bitten by a rabid animal must be taken to a hospital as soon as possible. The bite wounds must be washed and disinfected immediately.


An Ostrich may attack humans if they get too close to its nest. It does not help to run away, since one will never outrun it. The best defence is to shield yourself with a branch from an acacia thorn tree or to lie face downwards protecting the nape of one’s neck with one’s hands until it goes away. The Ostrich has sharp toenails and can give a powerful kick. Most deadly wounds are to the head, since it continues its attack even after the victim is on the ground.