“For a stealthy but surprisingly dangerous animal, I think I’d have to go with snails,” Ndiaye tells Mental Floss. “They’re definitely not something you’d associate with the killers of the animal world, but freshwater snails are responsible for something like 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 especially dangerous is that they have a cocktail of different toxins 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 strike in the literal blink of an eye makes them that much more intimidating.
“So yeah, snails.”
In 100 Animals That Can F-cking End You ($22), TikTok star Ndiaye (@mndiaye_97) lays out a convincing argument that there are plenty of reasons to fear everything from porcupines to giraffes. Considering the viral animal interactions that often end with humans being put in their place, it may be one of the most important books you’ll read all year.
“I always remember having a healthy awareness of nature and the animals in it, mostly out of respect for the animals themselves, but as well as the fact that most animals have the capacity to cause serious harm if not taken seriously,” Ndiaye says. “It’s why I’ll always shake my head at videos of people going right up to moose and bison expecting that, because they’re not meat eaters, they’re not capable of maiming you—which they very much are.”
100 Animals That Can F-cking End You—which, like Mental Floss titles The Curious Reader and The Curious Viewer, was created in partnership with Indelible Editions—is a practical guide for dangerous animal awareness, all of it contextualized by Ndiaye’s distinctively irreverent delivery that’s grown his following to 14.7 million on TikTok and another 2 million on YouTube. (Ornery animals may “subtract” you; an orca is a “steroid zebra guppy.”)
Ndiaye was first captivated by animals at a young age, picking up the Zoo Books series on wildlife intended for young readers. In 2020, he was working as an environmental field technician when the pandemic prompted company layoffs. Ndiaye started uploading animal-focused TikToks, which took off. That, in turn, prompted 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 put more of an onus on grabbing the viewer’s attention in the first couple of seconds and retaining them for as long as possible,” Ndiaye says. “There’s also the time constraint that exists on TikTok. With this book, I didn’t have to worry about either, which allowed 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 can prompt people to think of certain species in a new way—not just animals that can indeed shorten one’s lifespan, but ones that may be unfairly maligned. “[Hyenas] always seem to get a bad rap as cowardly, lowly scavengers when they’re actually one of the dominant predators in Africa, and have a social intelligence that can possibly rival some apes,” Ndiaye says. “As for the scavenger reputation, ironically, lions steal from hyenas more than vice versa. I feel like it’s this weird thing where if you like lions, you hate hyenas, and I wish people could appreciate both of them.
“I’d also put coyotes up there too. Coyotes are amazingly intelligent and are adaptable enough to live virtually everywhere, yet they get persecuted like crazy. To be fair, there are a lot of people who have lost pets and livestock to them, so I can somewhat understand the sentiment. I just think it’s funny how, while public perception of wolves has done a full 180, people still seem to hate coyotes now as much as they did back in the day. I personally love them.”
Fans of Jaws may revolt at Ndiaye’s assertion that killer whales outrank a great white, but the facts speak for themselves: “One orca on its own is imposing enough, but the fact that they can roll in pods of up to 20 makes them that much more of a force. But it’s really their intelligence that sets them apart. You’ll see orcas work together to create a wave to knock animals hiding out of reach on ice floes. Orcas will slap around animals like stingrays and seals enough to incapacitate them without killing them, just so the young calves can get hunting practice in. I’ve even seen a video of an orca baiting a seagull by holding a piece of fish by the edge of a pool, only to snatch up the bird when it got too close. They’re one of the smartest animals in the ocean and they take full advantage.”
So which animal would be Ndiaye’s least favorite assailant? “Obviously 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 run into on a bad day. But if I’m being honest, out of all the animals I’ve talked about, chimpanzees would have to be the ones I would be the most apprehensive of. They’re highly unpredictable and intelligent, and considering what I’ve heard about them mutilating rival troop members, death by chimp is a fate I wouldn’t wish on anybody. The strongest, toughest human on the planet would still get folded by the average chimp—they’re really no joke.”
100 Animals That Can F-cking End You is published by Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, and is available now.