Shark week is upon us, but for Mamadou Ndiaye, the world of deadly predators doesn’t stop at great whites. He advises people to become more concerned about snails.
“For a stealthy but surprisingly dangerous animal, I think I’ll have to make do with snails,” Ndiaye tells Mental Floss. “They are certainly not something you would associate with the killers of the animal world, but freshwater snails are responsible for about 200,000 human deaths each year, thanks to parasites. In fact, one of the most venomous animals in the sea is the cone snail, and what makes it particularly dangerous is that they have a cocktail of different poisons that make their venom so potent, [which is] also why there is no antidote if you manage to get stung. That and the fact that cone snails can literally strike in the blink of an eye makes them all the more intimidating.
“So yes, snails.”
In 100 Animals That Can End You Damn ($22), TikTok star Ndiaye (@mndiaye_97) makes a compelling case that there are plenty of reasons to fear everything from porcupines to giraffes. Given the viral animal interactions that often end up with people being put in their place, this is arguably one of the most important books you’ll read all year round.
“I always remember having a healthy awareness of nature and the animals in it, mostly out of respect for the animals themselves, but also from the fact that most animals have the ability to cause serious harm if not taken seriously. taken,” says Ndiaye. “That’s why I always shake my head at videos of people going to moose and bison expecting that because they’re not meat eaters, they won’t be able to maim you — which they really are.”
100 Animals That Can End You Damn-which, like titles from Mental Floss The curious reader and The curious viewer, was created in collaboration with Indelible Editions – is a hands-on guide to dangerous animal awareness, all contextualized by Ndiaye’s signature irreverent delivery that has grown his following to 14.7 million on TikTok and another 2 million on YouTube. (Ornery animals can “jerk you off,” a killer whale is a “steroid zebra guppy.”)
Ndiaye was first fascinated by animals at a young age and picked up the zoo books Wildlife series aimed at young readers. In 2020, he was working as an environmental engineer in the field when the pandemic led to layoffs at the company. Ndiaye started uploading animal-centric TikToks, which boomed. That in turn led to an idea for a book.
“With TikTok and social media as a whole, everyone’s attention span is so short that you’re somewhat forced to grab the viewer’s attention more in the first few seconds and hold it for as long as you can,” says Ndiaye. “There is also the time pressure that exists on TikTok. With this book, I didn’t have to worry about that either, allowing me to really go down the rabbit hole of talking about these animals for as long as I wanted. That aspect of it was definitely fun.”
Ndiaye is hopeful 100 animals may prompt people to think in new ways about certain species — not just animals that can indeed shorten one’s lifespan, but also those that are unfairly vilified. “[Hyenas] always seem to get a bad reputation as cowardly, humble scavengers, when in fact they are one of the dominant predators in Africa, and have a social intelligence that could potentially rival some monkeys,” says Ndiaye. “As for the scavenger reputation, ironically, lions steal more from hyenas than vice versa. I feel like it’s weird that if you love lions, you hate hyenas, and I wish people could appreciate them both.
“I’d put coyotes there too. Coyotes are amazingly intelligent and flexible enough to live just about anywhere, yet they are persecuted like crazy. To be fair, there are many people who have lost pets and livestock to them, so I can somewhat understand the sentiment. I just think it’s funny how, while the public perception of wolves has taken a full 180, people still seem to hate coyotes just as much as they used to. I personally love them.”
Fans of jaws may object to Ndiaye’s claim that killer whales are better than a great white, but the facts speak for themselves: “One killer whale on its own is impressive enough, but the fact that they can roll in pods of up to 20 makes them much more a force. But it is really their intelligence that sets them apart. You will see how orcas work together to create a wave to knock animals hiding on ice floes out of reach. Orcas will beat around enough animals like stingrays and seals to take them out without killing them so the young calves can hunt I’ve even seen a video of an orca luring a seagull by holding a piece of fish by the edge of a pool just to catch the bird if he got too close, they are one of the smartest animals in the ocean and they take full advantage.”
So which animal would be Ndiaye’s least favorite attacker? “Of course being eaten alive has to be one of the most horrific ways to go, so animals like African wild dogs, hyenas and bears would be animals I wouldn’t want to encounter on a bad day. But if I’m honest, of all the animals I’ve talked about, chimpanzees should be the one I’d be most afraid of. They are highly unpredictable and intelligent, and from what I’ve heard about maiming rival troops, chimpanzee death is a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The strongest, toughest human in the world would still be folded by the average chimpanzee — they’re really no joke.
100 Animals That Can End You Damn is published by Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, and is available now.