When we think about the most dangerous places to live, we tend to focus on factors such as crime rates, potential for natural disasters and pollution levels. Large-predator expert Dave Salmoni, who has hosted the Animal Planet series After the Attack and Into the Pride, plans to change that perception. On his new series for the network, World’s Deadliest Towns, Salmoni travels to locations in Africa and India, where residents live in fear of elephants, tigers and hippos.
“It’s a chance for me to show the rest of the Western world that there are places out there, that we’re living in right now, where people have to live under constant fear of animal attacks,” Salmoni says of the show. “It’s not about me going out and solving the world’s problems. It’s really just about me trying to understand what it must be like to live like that.”
Salmoni predicts that the story viewers will find the most shocking is that of a village in India, where major deforestation has severely reduced the food supply for local elephants. That has resulted in the beasts altering their behavior and regularly coming into the village in search of food.
“Elephants know that people are storing their grain and their rice in their houses,” Salmoni says. “And they also know that these houses are made of mud and sticks, and they’re simple to push over. So what they’ve started doing is just knocking houses down, killing the people inside and eating all the rice.”
Compounding matters, the religious beliefs of the people prohibit them from killing the elephants. Salmoni says that one exception was made, in the case of one rogue elephant that actually began eating humans despite its normally herbivorous appetite. In general, though, other drastic measures of survival are being taken, including the use of kids as late-night lookouts.
“I was sitting with a group of children — they don’t go to school anymore, because they have to sit on patrol for elephants at 3 in the morning on these lifted things. They were telling me that their year’s supply of crops can be destroyed in 15 minutes by one elephant. I was literally with 5-year-olds and 7-year-olds whose job it was to chase animals that I would tell people, on television, never to go near.”
All three initial episodes of World’s Deadliest Towns premiere Feb. 21 on Animal Planet.