During Vietnam War, booby traps weren’t the only terrifying things that the American troops had to watch out for and be wary about in the Vietnam jungles. The jungles themselves were already packed with surprises that no one would ask for, and no, it’s not Bigfoot. They’re other things that nightmares are made of.

The Indo-Chinese Tiger

Yep, you read that right.  Vietnam once had tigers lurking in the jungle.  While none have been seen in Vietnam since the late 1990s, this tiger had a range that went from southern China into Laos, Cambodia, and even Vietnam. So it wasn’t just Charlie that could be hunting for you in the bad bush, but Shere Khan from Jungle Book looking to make a meal out of you if you got separated from your unit.

The Salt Water Crocodile

Salt water Croc in Kakadu National Park in Australia. photo Wikimedia commons

Try not to act surprised that this leftover dinosaur from the Late Miocene Age lives in a country like Vietnam with swamps, rivers and a long coastline on the Pacific. These suckers can get up to two tons and 18ft in length and fear absolutely nothing. Because of their huge size and highly aggressive nature they have been hunted out or relocated to areas away from people in the United States and Australia but not in Africa and Asia where they inhabit rivers and river deltas in the thousands.  They are incredible swimmers in terms of endurance and can cross large bodies of open water. Scientists believe crocodiles swam from Africa to the Western and Southern Hemispheres about 7 million years ago, covering as much as 300 miles a day with the help of ocean currents. Their tough armored skin on an 18-foot body would make them a match even for a large shark like the Great White, their tremendous bite force would crush the cartilage structure of just about any shark that tried to take a bite out of them

Venomous Snakes

Bamboo Pit Viper (Trimeresurus albolabris). Thomas BrownCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Vietnam jungles are hot and humid, the perfect place for both reptiles and amphibians to lounge on. There were reticulated pythons (not venomous, but it could squeeze you to death) and king cobras. There is also the two-step bamboo pit viper notorious for allowing anyone bitten to take only two steps before they drop dead. Although, that story was an exaggeration and was not true. Viet Cong also used these snakes against the Americans by carrying these snakes on their backpacks so when Americans tried to search inside them, they would be bitten. (You might wanna check out some other booby traps that the Viet Cong devised during the Vietnam War here.) And then there were also kraits which are said to be more dangerous than the pit vipers.

Vietnam is also home to the White Lipped Viper, perhaps the most feared snake in the world, the King Cobra.

According to an article written by Legion Magazine, “… between 25 and 50 American soldiers, a year were bitten by snakes during the war in Vietnam.”

Gigantic Insects

Vietnamese Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes). Bernard DUPONT from FRANCECC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you think regular-sized centipedes are creepy, then you will not like the super venomous, 20-inch Vietnamese centipedes. These giant centipedes can move rapidly through their antennae. There are also forest scorpions that could reach a length of up to 12 CM. They hide in leaf litter, burrows, and under logs. Time to grab that flamethrower.

Toxic Plants

Flame Lilies (Gloriosa superb). Bernard DUPONT from FRANCECC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Wait-a-minute” vines hung throughout the Vietnam jungles that could cause injury to soldiers during patrols. These vines would stop unsuspecting soldiers on track as they need to be untangled. Other beautiful but deadly plants and flowers to watch out for were: Heartbreak Grass which is fatal when ingested; Flame Lillies that looked lovely but are highly toxic, Twisted Cord Flowers, which are known to be “pretty, perfumed, and poisonous,” and Barkcloth Trees with intensely toxic sap that was also used as a toxin for arrows, darts, and blowdarts in Island Southeast Asian cultures.

Weaver Ants

Nest of Oecophylla smaragdina (weaver ants), made of green leaves welded together. Basile MorinCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ants sound like the last thing to worry about, compared to the others mentioned above. However, imagine a ball of leaves the size of your head falling on you, and the next thing you know, you are showered with thousands of red ants crawling inside your clothes, inside your ears, and on your head, all while biting you. These ants were reportedly resistant to bug sprays, and their bites are quite painful.

Mosquitos, Most Deadly

Of all the dangerous creatures and plants you could find in Vietnam the tiny Mosquito probably proved the most deadly.  World wide, the mosquito is probably the most deadly animal on the planet, killing more human beings each year than any other animal in nature.  While they don’t have fangs dripping blood or venon they can inject, they do carry diseases like Dengue Fever and Malaria.

These are just a few of the things you have to watch out for when you’re in the jungles of Vietnam. If you know of other things, we’d love to hear about them!

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