Nightmares of Nature

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9780002200158: Nightmares of Nature

This work investigates the dangers we face from animals, separating the very real threats from misconceptions based on myth, religion, voodoo, witchcraft, horror film and fiction. These have encouraged us to fear the great white shark out of all proportion, as it kills only a handful of people a year, and remain ignorant of the saw scaled viper, which kills thousands, many more than any other animal on earth.

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From the Back Cover:

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS ANIMALS

'Nightmares of Nature' explores the reasons why we fear animals, separating the very real threats from misconceptions based on myth, religion, voodoo, witchcraft, horror films and fiction. Some animals are genuinely dangerous, others merely look threatening, and many are feared unnecessarily. Our ignorance has encouraged us to fear the great white shark out of all proportion to its danger, as it kills only a handful of people a year, while one of the most dangerous animals, the saw-scaled viper, remains unknown. Each chapter in the book, and programme of the BBC 1 TV series, provides a unique insight into the behaviour and physical attributes of these animals.

MANEATERS
Being attacked and eaten alive by a maneater is perhaps the worst nightmare humans can conceive of – and it's true, there are animals out there that include us on the menu. but how often do such attacks really happen? What are the hard facts? Are our fears about the large carnivores like lions, tigers, crocodiles, bears and wolves really justified, or are there other large creatures that we should be even more wary of?

THE DEEP
The dark blue depths of the world's oceans have hidden many monsters in the minds of the world's seafarers. In 1974, in the Gulf of Mexico, a ship-wrecked family lost two children to the ocean and its creatures – so real dangers do lie below the waves. But how much is myth and how much is truth? Which kills more people: the three tonne great white shark or a small blob of jellyfish?

IN COLD BLOOD
Dr Stemmed of the Chicago Natural History Museum was bitten by an unidentified snake on 25 September 1957 – within 24 hours he was dead. The boomslang which bit him is not the most venomous cold-blooded animal, nor perhaps the most dangerous – the most poisonous animal is a frog and giant dragons have eaten children on the Island of Rinca.

SQUIRM
The benign huntsman spider is the cause of many car crashes in the Australian outback – mainly because the appearance of a large spider inside a car has an alarming effect on the driver. The spiders, scorpions, insects, slugs, leeches, caterpillars and larvae that occur all over the world are all fairly repulsive to most people. Many species are completely harmless, but some do bite, burrow under your skin or suck your blood.

A CRY IN THE DARK
The night is a frightening time for humans – we are poorly equipped to see in the dark, whereas nearly all the animals we encounter can see perfectly. Out of the night come bats and maggots, to suck your blood, rats, to spread plague, and mosquitoes, the species that inadvertently kills more people that any other by transmitting malaria in its bite.

Richard Matthews began his career in wildlife film-making at the BBC Natural History Unit in 1979, working as a researcher. Five years on he decided to go it alone and return to his beloved Africa. Within six weeks, he had mortgaged his house to buy a cine camera and was to be found in the wilds of Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve, hanging out of the side of a hastily-converted jeep, filming the story of a young leopard and her cubs. His initial lack of experience provided a number of close shaves – coming face to face with an angry hippo and narrowly escaping attack by an irate pride of lions. The film he produced – 'The Secret Leopard' – was an immediate success, winning a number of awards and launching his career as an independent natural history cameraman and producer.

Richard has gone on to produce and contribute to some of the most memorable, award-winning natural history programmes of the 1980s and 90s, including David Attenborough's 'The Trials of Lie', 'Queen of the Beasts', 'Creator of the Rain God' (which won an Emmy for cinematography) and his most recent production prior to 'Nightmares of Nature', a Wildlife on One programme called 'The Lake of Flies'. He is currently making a film about the desert coast of Namibia.

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