Taiwan is not only one of the the Asian Tigers, but also has an astonishing flora and fauna. The climate here ranges from subtropical to subarctic, and its vegetation zones range from coastal over montane to alpine. Makes it not hard to guess then, that the biodiversity is enormous. There are over 120 different mammals, 90 known reptile species, over 30 amphibian species and around 18,000 identified insect species (400 of which are butterflies).
Clearly, not all of the animals are nice, beautiful and harmless, which brings me to the following topic. In this article I’ll work through all the dangerous wildlife here in Taiwan and will point out the 4 animals you should look out for and explain them more accurate.
There are two main Asian Giant Hornets in Taiwan; the Hu Tou Fong or tiger head hornet, which nests in trees, and the Tu Fong or ground hornet, which nests on the ground. Furthermore, they both are part of the biggest hornet species of the world. Their bodies look orange, black and brown. They don’t have that distinct streamlined hornet abdomen, but are more cigar-shaped, with a broad orange head.
Technically they could be anywhere in the mountains, and they are active from summer to early winter. Those hornets are potentially lethal, whether you are allergic to bee stings or not. Every body suffering a severe venom reaction from being injected with poison, and in addition, they have a non-barbed sting, which means they can sting repeatedly.
A single hornet is unlikely to attack you, but as soon as you’re approaching the nest, they surround you within seconds, which make them even more dangerous. If that really happens, the best advise is, crouch down and move away slowly or if you’ve already been stung, it would be advisable to just run. To get stung by one is seriously painful, but three or four of them and you’re getting into the lethal dose range.
The typical symptoms are strong pain, immediate, pronounced swelling, slurred speech, shortness of breath, nausea, and faintness. It is certainly the most dangerous animal in Taiwan, hurting and killing the many people every year. If they approach you, it means you are getting near their nest, so distance yourself as calmly as possible. Even if only one hornet stung you, you should seek medical attention to get an anti-histamine shot and pain killers.
The Scolopendra subspinipes, giant or red-headed centipede, goes by many names. However you want to call it, one thing is certain, it is highly venomous.
Those centipedes love damp environments. That means, you can find them not only in Taiwan, virtually you can find them on all land areas around and within the Indian Ocean, all of tropical and subtropical Asia from Russia to the islands of Malaysia and Indonesia, sometimes you can even see them in Australia or America.
This species can grow up to 20 cm in length and it has various color variations. Usually its body is red or reddish brown with yellow or yellow-orange legs. Plus, it has 22 body segments with each segment having one pair of legs. The pair of modified legs on the head, called forcipules, are the major tools used to kill or defend, as they have sharp claws that connect to the venom.
In most cases, humans bitten by these centipedes won’t die, however you feel severe pain, your blood pressure rises and you have the risk of a Myocardial Ischemia, which occurs when blood flow to your heart is reduced, preventing the heart muscle from receiving enough oxygen. Scientists found out, that the Epilepsy drug Retigabine is effective in neutralizing part of the venom, though a complete anti-dote hasn’t been found yet.
Taiwan has more than 50 different snake species ranging from massive Burmese pythons to tiny blind creatures just 18 centimeters long. Most are non-venomous and pose no threat to humans, but Taiwan is also home to at least 10 species that are capable of delivering lethal bites. There are two different types of venomous snakes in Taiwan.
This type of venom breaks down blood cells and the walls of blood vessels. Snakes like Pit-Vipers and Vipers own this venom and the bites are extremely painful. The common venomous Vipers in Taiwan are the Hundred Pacer, the Pointed-scaled Pit Viper, the Chinese Green Tree Viper and the Russell’s Viper. All of them are highly dangerous and the least bite symptoms are black puncture marks. Plus, the surrounding area quickly becomes swollen, with the skin and muscle turning necrotic and blisters forming in the surroundings and the wound bleeds.
This type of venom attacks the nerve centers, which results in paralyzing the breathing mechanism. The victim usually dies from suffocation. Snakes like Water-Snakes and Cobras own this venom and are highly dangerous, because you nearly feel no pain until it’s too late. The common neurotoxin snakes are the Common Cobra and the Banded Krait, the latter being the most deadly among these. The bite marks are hard to see and it feels like little ants are crawling over the wound. You feel sensitive, experience blurriness of vision and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe. It feels like a harmless bite, which results in people seeking for medical attention too late.
If you look for more information about Taiwanese snakes, there are two links, one, which describes the most dangerous snakes and what to do and not to do and the other one about snakes in general in Taiwan. Important to note is, that snakes never actively try to attack people. Most of the time people play with them or try to kill them before getting bitten and the other 40% are mainly accidents. No matter which snake bites you, always remember the look of the snake or make a photo and stay calm. Keep your heart rate low and look to leave the area and seek the nearest hospital or clinic.
Due to the subtropical weather in Taiwan, there are over 300 different kind of spiders, luckily only two of them can do harm to human beings. They seldom appear and there is no mortality case in Taiwan because of spiders yet.
The Redback Spider, or Latrodectus hasselti, is part of the widow family, which means it’s a close relative to the notorious black widow spider. Only the adult female redback is dangerous, it has a body around 1 centimeter long, with slender legs, the first pair of which are longer than the rest. The round belly normally is deep black, with a bright red or orange dorsal stripe and a ventral hourglass mark. Also, they like to live near houses and under cool spaces in parks.
Serious complication rarely occur within the first three hours. As long as the bite is somewhere on the distal parts of the limps, you will only feel intense local pain, which may becomes hot, red and swelling. If the bite happens near to the core of the body, symptoms of nausea, vomiting, generalized sweating, paraesthesias, mild pyrexia, insomnia, dizziness, headache and hypertension can occur. If you really see this spider and get bitten, go to the hospital and get treated.
The Funnel Web Spider, or Macrothele species, got it’s name because they build tube-webs or funnel-webs under rocks or logs, or in crevices in the ground. They are widely spread over the mountain area in Taiwan. The adult female will be about 3.5 cm and the adult male will be 1.4 cm. Unlike other venomous spiders, only the bite from the male seems to be dangerous.
Because the fangs of the spider are large and enter with considerable force, the bite is very painful and the pain will persist for hours to days. Perioral tingling usually occurs within 15 minutes followed by tongue spasms, lacrimation, salivation, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diaphoresis or severe dyspnea. Muscle fasciculations and spasms are also common. Most bites do not result in envenomation and pain is the most common complaint. If it occurs, standard life support measures and antivenin therapy are necessary.
The Asian Giant Hornets, The Giant Centipede, Snakes and Spiders are the most spread and dangerous animals in Taiwan, even though there are barely any serious cases every year. Here I will list the animals, which make even less problems then the ones mentioned above. There are some predators living in Taiwan, like black bears, wild boars and leopard cats, but you can probably count the amount of living animals around Taiwan with your bare hands. Therefore you have a bigger chance to get strung by lightning or win the lottery in your life.
There are other more common dangers, like red ants and ticks, still to keep it fair, nearly the whole world has a problem with them and in Taiwan it’s still humane. The last animal, which is noteworthy are monkeys, there are a TON of them in Taiwan, sometimes have rabies, like to steal things and are always around in groups. If they see you as a thread or have any kind of sickness, it could get ugly easily.
To sum everything up, watch out for everything, which looks like a hornet, spider, snake, centipede or monkey. Respect animal wildlife and stay on the right trail. As long as it’s not somebody’s dog, don’t try to pet or play with it, it could see you as a threat. And if something of the above attacked you, go to the hospital or clinic immediately, it could be worse than you think. Never forget, better save than sorry. Also, if you want to learn more about general safety or crime related hazards here in Taiwan, follow the links .
Enjoy nature and wildlife, but responsibly!