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Man-eater is a colloquial term for an animal that preys upon humans. This does not include scavenging. Although human beings can be attacked by many kinds of animals, man-eaters are those that have incorporated human flesh into their usual diet. Most reported cases of man-eaters have involved tigers, leopards, lions and crocodilians. However, they are by no means the only predators that will attack humans if given the chance; a wide variety of species have also been known to take humans as prey, including bears, Komodo dragons, hyenas, cougars, and sharks.
Tigers are recorded to have killed more people than any other big cat, and tigers have been responsible for more human deaths through direct attack than any other wild mammal. About 1,000 people were reportedly killed each year in India during the early 1900s, with one individual tiger killing 430 persons in India. Tigers killed 129 people in the Sundarbans mangrove forest from 1969–71. Unlike leopards and lions, man-eating tigers rarely enter human habitations in order to acquire prey. The majority of victims are reportedly in the tiger's territory when the attack takes place. Additionally, tiger attacks mostly occur during daylight hours, unlike those committed by leopards and lions. The Sundarbans are home to approximately 600 Royal Bengal Tigers who before modern times used to "regularly kill fifty or sixty people a year". In 2008, a loss of habitat due to the Cyclone Sidr led to an increase in the number of attacks on humans in the Indian side of the Sunderbans, as tigers were crossing over to the Indian side from Bangladesh.
A theory promoted to explain this suggests that since tigers drink fresh water, the salinity of the area waters serve as a destabilizing factor in the diet and life of tigers of Sundarbans, keeping them in constant discomfort and making them extremely aggressive. Other theories include the sharing of their habitat with human beings and the consumption of human corpses during floods.
Man-eating lions have been recorded to actively enter human villages at night as well as during the day to acquire prey. This greater assertiveness usually makes man-eating lions easier to dispatch than tigers. Lions typically become man-eaters for the same reasons as tigers: starvation, old age and illness, though as with tigers, some man-eaters were reportedly in perfect health. The lion's proclivity for man-eating has been systematically examined. American and Tanzanian scientists report that man-eating behavior in rural areas of Tanzania increased greatly from 1990 to 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many eaten over this period—a number far exceeding the more famed "Tsavo" incidents of a century earlier. The incidents occurred near Selous National Park in Rufiji District and in Lindi Province near the Mozambican border. While the expansion of villagers into bush country is one concern, the authors argue that conservation policy must mitigate the danger because, in this case, conservation contributes directly to human deaths. Cases in Lindi have been documented where lions seize humans from the centre of substantial villages. It is estimated that 550–700 people are attacked by lions every year.
Man-eating leopards are a small percent of all leopards, but have undeniably been a menace in some areas; one leopard in India killed over 200 people. Jim Corbett was noted to have stated that unlike tigers, which usually became man-eaters because of infirmity, leopards more commonly did so after scavenging on human corpses; in the area that Corbett knew well, dead people are usually cremated completely, but when there is a bad disease epidemic, the death rate outruns the supply of cremation pyre wood and people burn the body a little and throw it over the edge of the burning ghat. In Asia, man-eating leopards usually attack at night, and have been reported to break down doors and thatched roofs in order to reach human prey. Attacks in Africa are reported less often, though there have been occasions where attacks occurred in daylight. Both Corbett and Kenneth Anderson have written that hunting the man eating panther presented more challenges than any other animal.
Jaguar attacks are rare on humans.[according to whom?]
Due to the expanding human population, cougar ranges increasingly overlap with areas inhabited by humans. Attacks on humans are very rare, as cougar prey recognition is a learned behavior and they do not generally recognize humans as prey. Attacks on people, livestock, and pets may occur when a puma habituates to humans or is in a condition of severe starvation. Attacks are most frequent during late spring and summer, when juvenile cougars leave their mothers and search for new territory.
Contrasted to other carnivorous mammals known to attack humans for food, the frequency with which wolves have been recorded to kill people is rather low, indicating that though potentially dangerous, wolves are among the least threatening for their size and predatory potential except for the dog which poses lethal hazards for reasons other than predation. In the rare cases in which man-eating wolf attacks occur, the majority of victims are children. Habituation is a known factor contributing to some man-eating wolf attacks which results from living close to human habitations, causing wolves to lose their fear of humans and consequently approach too closely, much like urban coyotes. Habituation can also happen when people intentionally encourage wolves to approach them, usually by offering them food, or unintentionally, when people do not sufficiently intimidate them. This is corroborated by accounts demonstrating that wolves in protected areas are more likely to show boldness toward humans than ones in areas where they are actively hunted.
Attacks on humans by dingoes are rare, with only 3 recorded fatalities in Australia, all of which involved young children. Dingoes are normally shy of humans and avoid encounters with them. The most famous record of a dingo attack was the disappearance of nine-week old Azaria Chamberlain. Her parents reported that they both saw a dingo taking Azaria out of their tent when she and her family were out on a camping trip in Uluru (then known as Ayers Rock).
Much like other large land carnivores, domestic dogs have the power, strength, speed, agility, voraciousness, and the sharp teeth and claws of mammalian species generally understood as man-eaters. Add to this the sort of organization that one associates with lions, hyenas, and wolves, and even a pack of small dogs is potentially as lethal as a single large predator. Predatory attacks by dogs (like wolves) on livestock and wildlife larger than humans demonstrate the potential of a dog as a man-eater. A large dog or a pack of dogs of adequate number depending on size of the dogs has the capacity to kill a human even without predatory intent, and most fatal dog attacks do not result from hunger. Self-extrication from a dog attack is extremely difficult. By far the best-behaved of all large predatory land animals except for humans, the dog is the large predatory animal least likely to kill humans as prey. Pet dogs are ordinarily too well fed to contemplate humans as food, and even strays are likely to find food through scavenging or begging.
Predatory acts by dogs upon humans have occurred, but many such incidents were the result of human misconduct. Guards such as Irma Grese often set dogs upon live prisoners in Nazi concentration camps with the dog killing the victim and partially devouring the corpse. Perpetrators of this method of murder were often executed as war criminals.
Almost all known predatory coyote attacks on humans have failed. To date, other than the Kelly Keen coyote attack and the Taylor Mitchell coyote attack, all known victims have survived by fighting, fleeing, or being rescued, and only in the later case was the victim partially eaten, although that case occurred in Nova Scotia where the local animals are "Eastern coyotes" (gray wolf × coyote hybrids).
Leopard seals are highly dangerous to humans. Even though there has not been a case of a human being consumed by a Leopard seal, they are active predators of penguins and other seals and may use a very similar attack pattern on humans. On 22 July 2003, a British marine biologist died from her injuries after being bitten and dragged underwater while snorkeling near the Rothera Research Station in Antarctica. It is considered the first recorded human fatality from this animal.
Polar bears, being almost completely unused to the presence of humans and therefore having no ingrained fear of them, are the only species of bear that will actively hunt people for food, though with the right precautions, they are easily deterred. These bears are at far greater risk from human hunters, despite global bans. Although bears rarely attack humans, bear attacks are often fatal due to the size and immense strength of bears. As with dogs, predatory intent is not necessary; territorial disputes and protection of cubs can result in death by bear attack. Truly man-eating bear attacks are uncommon but are known to occur when the animals are diseased or natural prey is scarce, often leading bears to attack and eat anything they are able to kill. In July 2008, dozens of starving bears killed two geologists working at a salmon hatchery in Kamchatka. After the partially eaten remains of the two workers were discovered, authorities responded by sending out a team of snipers to hunt down the bears.
Though usually shy and cautious animals, Asian black bears are more aggressive toward humans than the brown bears of Eurasia. Brown bears seldom attack humans on sight, and usually avoid people. They are however unpredictable in temperament, and will attack if they are surprised or feel threatened. In some areas of India and Burma, sloth bears are more feared than tigers, due to their unpredictable temperament.
Although hyenas will readily feed upon human corpses, hyenas are generally very wary of man and much less dangerous than the big cats whose territory overlaps with theirs. Nonetheless, both the spotted hyena and the smaller striped hyena are powerful predators quite capable of killing an adult human, and are known to attack people when food is scarce. Like most predators, hyena attacks tend to target women, children, and infirm men, though both species can and do attack healthy adult males on occasion. The spotted hyena is the more dangerous of the two species, being larger, more predatory and more aggressive than the striped hyena. The brown hyena and aardwolf are not known to prey on humans.
Although not true carnivores, pigs are competent predators and can kill and eat helpless humans unable to escape them.
Crocodile attacks on people are common in places where crocodiles are native. The Saltwater and Nile Crocodiles are responsible for more attacks and more deaths than any other wild predator that attacks humans for food. Each year, hundreds of deadly attacks are attributed to the Nile Crocodile within sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that there are many relatively healthy populations of Nile Crocodiles in East Africa and their proximity to people living in poverty and/or without infrastructure has made it likely that the Nile Crocodile is responsible for more attacks on humans than all other species combined.
Despite their manifest ability to kill prey similar to or larger than humans in size and their commonness in an area of dense human settlement (the southeastern United States of America, especially Florida), American alligators rarely make predatory attacks upon humans despite the opportunity. Unlike the far-more dangerous saltwater and Nile crocodiles, almost all alligators seem to avoid contact with humans if possible, especially if they have been hunted. Incidents have happened, and they may not all have been predatory in nature.
Only very few species of snakes are physically capable of swallowing an adult human. Although quite a few claims have been made about giant snakes swallowing adult humans, convincing proof has been absent. However, large constricting snakes may sometimes constrict and kill prey that are too large to swallow. Also, there are multiple documented cases of medium-sized (10 to 13 foot) captive Burmese pythons constricting and killing humans, including several non-intoxicated, healthy adult men, one of which was a "student" zookeeper. In the zookeeper case, the python attempting to swallow the zookeeper's head when other keepers intervened. In addition, at least one Burmese python as small as 9 feet constricted and killed an intoxicated adult man.
A large constricting snake may constrict or swallow an infant or a small child, a threat that is legitimate and empirically proven. Cases of python attacks on children have been recorded for the green anaconda, the African rock python, the Burmese python, and possibly the Australian scrub or amethystine python.
In the Philippines, more than a quarter of Aeta men (a modern forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer group) have reported surviving reticulated python predation attempts. Pythons are nonvenomous ambush predators, and both the Aeta and pythons hunt deer, wild pigs, and monkeys, making them competitors and prey.
The only family of snakes that are able to eat an adult human being are constrictors (three pythons and one boa, all non-venomous):
Large Komodo Dragons are the only known Lizard species to occasionally attack and consume humans. However because they live on remote islands, attacks are infrequent and may go unreported. Despite their large size, attacks on people are often unsuccessful with the victims often managing to escape (although severe wounds are usually sustained). Additionally, most instances of humans being consumed by Komodos are of already dead bodies being dug up by the lizards from shallow graves.
Contrary to popular belief, only a few sharks are dangerous to humans. Out of more than 568 shark species, only four have been involved in a significant number of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white shark, tiger shark, bull shark, and the oceanic whitetip shark. These sharks, being large, powerful predators, may sometimes attack and kill humans; however, they have all been filmed in open water by unprotected divers.
There is fossil evidence that large birds of prey occasionally prey on humans. The Taung Child, an early human found in Africa, is believed to have been killed by an eagle-like bird. It has also been speculated that the extinct Haast's Eagle may have preyed on humans in New Zealand.
Individual notable man-eating animal's death toll