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11 Dangerous Animals in Vietnam That You Need to Know: The Ultimate Guide

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Vietnam is a stunning and captivating destination that lures thousands of travelers every year. The misty jungles and sparkling seas are truly mesmerizing, but before you pack your bags, it’s essential to know what Dangerous Animals in Vietnam within its beauty. From lethal snakes to ferocious mammals, Vietnam houses some of the deadliest beasts that can pose a threat to tourists. 

It’s crucial to stay informed about the animals you might encounter during your trek from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. This guide reveals the nine most dangerous creatures in Vietnam that you need to watch out for. Whether you’re hiking through the hills of Sa Pa or enjoying a relaxing day on the beach in Hoi An, these creatures can make themselves known at any time. So, if you’re dreaming of an adventure in Vietnam, don’t forget to study up on these beasts before you go.

Vietnamese giant centipede

Dangerous Animals in Vietnam
  • Latin name: Scolopendra subspinipes
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Local wound care
  • Where you find them: Forests, undergrowth
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Have you ever heard of the Vietnamese giant centipede? Also known as the Chinese red-headed centipede and the jungle centipede, this creature is not for the faint of heart. With a length of up to 20cm (8 inches) and over 20 individual body segments, this centipede is a fearsome sight. Its aggressive nature means that it will go after any prey it feels it can overpower, and it’s venomous too.

Ingesting its venom can cause paralysis and swift death in smaller animals. Even humans are not immune, as the venom can lead to necrosis and cell decay. If you ever cross paths with a Vietnamese giant centipede, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately. The good news is that they mainly reside in rural areas in the hinterland of Vietnam, so the chances of encountering one in the city are slim.

Weaver ants

  • Latin name: Oecophylla
  • Attacks: Bite and inflammatory venom
  • Treatment: Local wound care
  • Where you find them: In trees in the forests
  • Conservation status: Least concern

US soldiers during the Vietnam War bestowed the moniker “Communist ants” upon weaver ants due to their vibrant crimson hue. However, their impact transcended this aspect. A simple misstep within the jungle could spell disaster for your resting spot. Weaver ants would swiftly mobilize en masse, launching unwavering assaults on anyone—particularly legs—that posed a potential menace to their nest, regardless of the presence of military footwear.

These ants share a close kinship with the notorious fire ants of North America, boasting an equally potent bite. While lacking a functional stinger, their jaws are augmented by formic acid, inducing significant discomfort, skin swelling, irritation, and intense pain upon contact.

Weaver ants are widely distributed across the jungles of Southeast Asia and Australia. Their distinctiveness lies in their tree-dwelling nests, in contrast to typical ground nests. These nests can even interweave to form vast colonies housing numerous communities of weaver ants, comprising millions of individuals. For the daring traveler, there’s an opportunity to embrace local custom by sampling weaver ants as a unique delicacy!

Mosquitoes

Most Hated Animals in the World
  • Latin name: Culicidae
  • Attacks: Bite and subsequent infection from tropical disease
  • Treatment: Anti-malarial prophylactic, DEET spray, anti-mosquito spray
  • Where you find them: All over Southeast Asia, but often close to open bodies of water
  • Conservation status: Least concern

A frequently silent yet highly perilous adversary, the mosquito often escapes the attention of travelers in Vietnam, though its danger should not be underestimated. Beyond its mere nuisance as a bothersome hum that can be swatted away, the mosquito holds a much more significant role. Across Vietnam and various tropical and subtropical regions around the globe, mosquitoes frequently serve as the primary carriers of hazardous illnesses. Among these, malaria stands out as one of the most well-known—a potentially lethal ailment transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes carrying a specific parasite. Contracting malaria can induce severe flu-like symptoms, marked by intense shivering and sweating.

However, the realm of risk extends beyond the confines of malaria. Among Vietnamese residents, there exists a heightened concern for dengue fever, a malady that also triggers elevated body temperatures, partial paralysis, and occasionally, hallucinations. The unsettling reality is that determining which mosquito carries a particular disease is an uncertainty. The optimal approach to safeguard oneself is by actively shielding against all mosquito bites and the perils of mosquito-borne ailments.

For effective prevention, we recommend including a reliable insect repellent containing DEET in your essentials, as this compound has shown superior results. Moreover, it’s advisable to cover your arms and legs, particularly during critical periods of the day—primarily the evening and early morning hours—to minimize exposure to these potential carriers of disease.

Mosquito-borne diseaseSymptoms
Dengue feverRash, fever, headache, easy bruising, bleeding gums
Zika virusFever, rash, joint pain, red eyes
MalariaFever, headache, chills, vomiting
Yellow feverJaundice, headache, backache, chills, vomiting

Seek medical attention if you have any of these symptoms with mosquito bites

Bats

Are Bats Smart
  • Latin name: Chiroptera
  • Attacks: Bite
  • Treatment: Local wound car and anti-virals
  • Where you find them: Forests, caves, cities
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Moving on to our roster of Vietnam’s most hazardous creatures, bats come into focus. These airborne rodents dominate the skies and treetops during the twilight hours, residing not only in rural terrains but also in urban settings. It’s important to maintain heightened vigilance, especially near the watercourses of the Mekong River and within significant Vietnamese cave networks located in regions like Ninh Bình and Sa Pa.

The global impact of the 2020/21 COVID pandemic underscored the potential threat of viruses carried by bats to much of the world. Aside from the novel coronavirus, bats are also known carriers of rabies and an array of other animal-borne viral strains, some of which have the potential to cross over to humans. However, the silver lining is that the primary concern historically has been linked to human consumption of bats. 

By abstaining from indulging in dishes such as bat soups and stir-fried bat wings, you can effectively mitigate the risks associated with these creatures. Rest assured, there exists a myriad of other delectable culinary options to explore in these regions.Vietnam boasts a diversity of bat species. The Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, for instance, has exclusively been spotted within the confines of Vietnam’s tropical jungles. Additionally, species like the greater roundleaf bat and the horseshoe bat inhabit caves and treetops across the entire country.

Gaur

  • Latin name: Bos gaurus
  • Attacks: Charge
  • Treatment: Wound care
  • Where you find them: Evergreen forests and moist deciduous forests
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The gaur, a species of wild water buffalo, is presently listed as endangered. Historically distributed across Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, these substantial mammals faced challenges such as poaching, agricultural activities, and urbanization. These factors have led to significant fragmentation and depletion of their populations. In fact, global gaur numbers have plummeted by over 70% in just the last five decades. Currently, it’s estimated that only around 21,000 of these creatures remain in their native habitats.

In Vietnam, herds of gaur can still be observed within the Ea So Nature Reserve, as well as the Yok Don and Cat Tien National Parks. Despite their vulnerability, gaur can pose a threat if provoked or cornered. When they feel endangered, they may charge at perceived threats with their robust horns at considerable speeds. Generally, however, gaur are peaceful and tranquil creatures that prefer to maintain their distance from human activities.

Here are some rapid insights about the robust gaur:

  • Gaur are classified as an endangered type of wild water buffalo.
  • Historically found in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
  • Facing challenges such as poaching, farming, and development.
  • Global gaur populations have declined by more than 70% in the last 50 years.
  • Approximately 21,000 gaur remain in their natural habitats worldwide.
  • In Vietnam, gaur can be observed in locations like Ea So Nature Reserve and Yok Don and Cat Tien National Parks.
  • While generally peaceful, gaur can become dangerous when threatened or cornered, occasionally charging with their formidable horns.
  • Gaur prefer solitude and peaceful coexistence with their surroundings.
  • Max. speed of 35mph
  • Extremely heavy weighing between 1,000-1,600kg
  • Large horns that can cause a lot of damage

White-lipped viper

  • Latin name: Trimeresurus albolabris
  • Attacks: Bite, powerful venom
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: Forests
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The white-lipped viper, a close relative of the pit viper, is native to Southeast Asia and represents just one among numerous perilous snakes within the region. These vipers tend to inhabit bamboo forests and flourish within densely vegetated bushland environments. This type of habitat is abundant in Vietnam, especially along the meandering stretches of the Mekong River and the verdant hills of Sa Pa.

Detecting these vipers in such environments can be quite challenging. Their coloration is akin to what one might call “tropical rainforest green,” almost blending seamlessly into the surroundings. The only noticeable markings are a pale yellow-white stripe running along their bodies, and as the name implies, a distinctive white hue accentuates their lip area. However, it’s advisable to maintain a distance that prevents you from discerning these features up close.

Despite their small size—usually ranging from 600 to 800 millimeters in length—the bite of the white-lipped viper is far from inconsequential. While fatalities are rare among humans, the venom carries potent procoagulant properties. Encounters with this snake result in severe local swelling, intense pain, and the formation of blisters. Although death may not be the likely outcome, the effects of its bite are anything but a mild experience.

Yellow sac spider

  • Latin name: Cheiracanthium
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Local wound care, antivenom, anti-inflamatories
  • Where you find them: Forests, undergrowth
  • Conservation status: Least concern

No comprehensive compilation of Vietnam’s most hazardous creatures would be complete without acknowledging the presence of eight-legged inhabitants, the spiders, that inhabit this region of Indochina. Enter the yellow sac spider. Despite its small size, the effects of its bite are far from minor. Equipped with fangs sizable enough to pierce human skin, the yellow sac spider possesses venom capable of inducing local necroses and tissue poisoning. The critical factor lies in the bite’s location. Should it occur near the spinal column or in crucial areas of the nervous system, the potential for alarming complications exists.

Fortunately, there have been no documented instances of fatal bites by yellow sac spiders. While incidents involving these spiders do occur in Vietnam, they primarily transpire in outdoor settings, particularly during jungle treks or gardening activities. It’s worth noting that the yellow sac spider’s bites can provoke significant discomfort and health concerns, but lethal outcomes remain unrecorded.

Saltwater crocodile

Strongest Sea Animals
  • Latin name: Crocodylus porosus
  • Attacks: Bite, death roll
  • Treatment: Hospitalization, wound care
  • Where you find them: Riparian habitats, mainly South Vietnam
  • Conservation status: Least concern

A single glance at the dagger-like rows of teeth belonging to the saltwater crocodile is sufficient to emphasize their standing among Vietnam’s most treacherous creatures. But the superlatives don’t stop there. These colossal beings hold the title of the largest living reptiles on Earth—a direct link to the prehistoric era of dinosaurs. They continue to inhabit the muddy banks of rivers stretching from Vietnam to the northern coast of Australia, all the way to the southern tip of Sri Lanka.

Their reputation as a formidable adversary is undeniable. Tipping the scales at 0.2 tonnes and spanning a staggering six meters from snout to tail, they transcend the realm of mere critters. The saltwater crocs are supremely adapted to their habitat, adorned with a gray-brown coloration that functions as camouflage. Their low center of gravity and rugged skin texture contribute to this mastery of disguise. Additionally, they’ve honed the infamous “death roll” technique, capable of tearing flesh into fragments within moments.

Encountering one of these prehistoric leviathans during your journey in Vietnam is highly improbable. The prevailing belief is that they are nearly extinct in this corner of Southeast Asia, primarily due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat. If any populations do persist, they would most likely be found in the warmer southern regions of the country, particularly around the wetlands of the Mekong Delta.

King cobra

  • Latin name: Ophiophagus hannah
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: All over Southeast Asia
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

For those with ophidiophobia, Vietnam presents an undeniable presence of the king cobra. In fact, it could be considered the epicenter of King Cobra territory, as their range extends from this region westward to the rainforests of Myanmar and eastward to the fringes of Borneo and Indonesia. However, their population in Vietnam has diminished over time, and interactions between humans and these snakes are quite infrequent in the expanse between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Arguably the most dreaded of all snake species globally, king cobras have the potential to reach lengths exceeding five meters—yes, five! Their favored habitats encompass lush, humid forests situated at altitudes below 2,000 meters, where they typically prey upon other snakes and small rodents.

When faced with a threat, the king cobra assumes its iconic defensive stance. This posture serves as more of a “stay-away-from-me” signal than a yoga pose. It’s crucial to heed this warning, as the subsequent response could entail a strike and a venomous bite. The venom itself is a combination of cytotoxins and neurotoxins, a blend you definitely want to avoid having injected into your body. This venom can systematically shut down vital organs, leading to paralysis, coma, and eventual demise. Statistics indicate that roughly 28% of all king cobra bites result in fatality.

Red-headed krait

  • Latin name: Azemiops
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: All over Southeast Asia, especially in rivers and wet rainforests
  • Conservation status: least Concern

The red-headed krait is an unmistakable sight. Adorned with a vibrant dash of vermilion atop its head, this species boasts a vivid scarlet crown that catches the eye in an instant. These semi-aquatic creatures find their abode in both water and forest environments, spanning the entire Southeast Asian peninsula from the northern hills of Thailand to the Vietnamese islands nestled in the expanse of the South China Sea. Despite their wide distribution, they are considered a rarity, with only a fraction of reported sightings compared to more common snake species.

In terms of venom, it’s imperative to recognize the identity of this snake—it’s a krait. Within the realm of serpents, kraits are renowned for possessing some of the most potent and lethal venom. This venom operates as a formidable neurotoxin that induces paralysis in its prey, targeting essential respiratory functions that ultimately lead to asphyxiation and death.

Prior to this dire outcome, victims undergo various stages of envenomation, including heightened salivation, nausea, and bilateral ptosis (a condition that causes the inability to keep one’s eyelids open). The silver lining is that the red-headed krait remains exceedingly uncommon. Furthermore, it’s believed to be a rather sluggish snake. Despite its imposing redhead, it seldom engages in aggressive behavior towards humans and prefers to remain concealed during daylight hours.

Fea’s viper

  • Latin name: Azemiops
  • Attacks: Venomous bite
  • Treatment: Antivenom
  • Where you find them: The hills and mountains of Vietnam
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Reaching lengths of up to 80 cm, the Azemiops, with its elegant dark-purple and black appearance, presents an intriguing deviation from the typical behavior of pit vipers. Despite its large head and oversized head scales, herpetologists have struggled to neatly categorize it. However, its association with the venomous genus is undeniable, even if it doesn’t conform to the typical pit viper visual.

The Azemiops has more recently become recognized as Fea’s viper, a name derived from the Italian explorer who initially encountered it in the late 1800s, presumably somewhere in Burma. This species is exceptionally elusive and predominantly inhabits highland environments, typically situated at altitudes of up to 1,000 meters above sea level. Its range extends from the Kachin Hills of Burma to the expanse of the South China Sea.

Regrettably, our understanding of the venom possessed by Fea’s vipers remains limited. Due to the scarcity of reported bites, comprehensive records and studies on its effects on humans have been challenging to compile. Nevertheless, if the venomous qualities of other vipers serve as any indication, one can only imagine that discovering the true nature of Fea’s viper venom is a venture best avoided.

Bonus: Dangerous flora in Vietnam

It’s not solely concerning the hazardous creatures found in Vietnam; there are also lethal plants. Yes, you read it right—fatal flora! In reality, set aside Costa Rica, as this region of Southeast Asia boasts remarkably peculiar flowers and creeping plants within its rainforests. The table below enlists a few of the plant species in the jungles that warrant our caution:

Plant NameCharacteristics
Low-hanging vinesConstricting and trapping of unsuspecting innocents on hikes and canoe trips.
Heartbreak grassTwisted vine with yellow/orange flowers with five petals, causes asphyxiation and death if ingested.
Flame liliesFlame-like petals that form a cage flower, colors range from yellow to burning red and is highly toxic to humans and animals.
Twisted cord flowersAlso called forest poisoned rope, long red tendrils fall from a white and pink flower.

Are there tigers in Vietnam?

A limited population of Indochinese tigers exists within the evergreen forests of northern Vietnam. The absence of sufficient conservation efforts by the government has led to the rampant poaching of tigers, pushing them to the brink of extinction not only in Vietnam but also across Asia. Presently, a mere 200 tigers are sparsely distributed across the northern regions of Vietnam.

Are there bears in Vietnam?

Limited numbers of Asiatic black bears and sun bears inhabit various parts of Vietnam. The Vietnamese authorities acknowledge the necessity of safeguarding these bear species through conservation initiatives and the regulation of commercial hunting activities. Notably, the black bear has earned a spot on Vietnam’s Red Book, which catalogs endangered species.

Are there venomous snakes in Vietnam?

 Vietnam boasts an extensive array of snakes, a considerable portion of which possess venom. Bites from specific cobras, kraits, or vipers have the potential to result in severe health consequences, and in some cases, even fatalities. Data indicates that around 30,000 individuals annually receive medical treatment in Vietnamese hospitals due to snakebites.

Some of the most venomous snakes in Vietnam are:

  • White-lipped viper
  • Fea’s Viper
  • Malayan Krait, also called Common Krait or Blue Krait
  • Red River Krait
  • Malayan Pit Viper
  • Thai Spitting Cobra

Reference:

Author Profile
Rahul M Suresh

Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.

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Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.

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