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A global epidemic of H1Z2 virus has rendered 95% of the population into zombies. The zombies have lost most of their frontal and temporal lobes so the following capabilities are either severely degraded or missing: decisions about right/wrong, suppression of socially inappropriate behaviors, new memory formation and sensory analysis. Viral damage to their cerebellum has rendered them clumsy. Zombies still have beating hearts but healing from injuries is highly impaired.

The zombie's physical capabilities are exactly the same as a humans. They are as strong as, and as breakable as uninfected humans. When they aren't feasting on humans, they are wandering around scavenging on whatever carrion they can find.

Up till now, major apex predators such as wolves, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my) have studiously avoided contact with humans because such contact equaled pain or death. But that is no longer so. Many apex predators now find human-like things wandering through their territories and appear to be easy meals.

There is no doubt that a non-human apex predator is a superior killer to a brain-damaged zombie. Which apex predator would be most effective at killing the most zombies in the shortest amount of time? The zombie outbreak is world-wide so any predator can be nominated.

Assume that H1Z2 is only lethal to humans and has no effect on animals. For simplicity sake, let's assume that H1Z2 does not mutate to have an effect on animals.

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    $\begingroup$ The one and only apex predator on planet Earth is the best equipped to kill zombies: Human Beings (Homo Sapiens)! $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Aug 23 '15 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides, don't make that a comment. Make it an answer! $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 23 '15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Zombie velociraptors, obviously. $\endgroup$ – David Stone Aug 24 '15 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ 95% become zombies? I think starvation would be the greatest threat :) Scavenging would help prolong the starvation, but not as long as you might expect (there's only so much sustenance you get from a starved carrion). Even dehydration or disease (from drinking bad water) would kill many more than any predator. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Aug 24 '15 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ @hiergiltdiestfu Yes, but that doesn't help much if you only eat almost starved zombies :P Green's zombies seem to be just humans with broken brains, so they do need food to survive - and there's ony so much food in e.g. New York after you cut off the farms. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Aug 25 '15 at 11:55

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With impaired healing, it's simple - bacteria. Historically, more people died from infections and diseases than were ever killed by any other means. Zombies aren't getting antibiotics, so we're back to that old-time death rate. Add impaired healing into the mix with all those open wounds, and sepsis is virtually guaranteed. Come back "28 Days Later" and you can basically guarantee all your zombies will be dead from blood poisoning.

And that's assuming their impaired healing hasn't already killed them from loss of blood. Haemophilia is basically impaired healing, and haemophiliacs have to be pretty careful about cuts and bruises, as well as taking clotting factor drugs. We can safely assume zombies aren't careful and aren't getting their clotting factor shots.

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  • $\begingroup$ Definitely the "predator" with the highest reproduction rate. By the time the four-legged ones realize there's a sudden abundance of food, cholera and friends will already be spreading like wildfire. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Aug 25 '15 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ But the OP asked for an apex predator. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Aug 25 '15 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ Fair point Jan, in which case the answer is "none, for reasons already given". :) $\endgroup$ – Graham Aug 26 '15 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Jan, this doesn't really fit what OP seemed to be asking. I'm sure most people thought about bacteria while reading the question and then went on to try and find the best apex predator. The question doesn't ask what the best predator is, or cause of death. It asks out of all apex predator, which would be the best. This question can take into account your reasoning that bacteria would kill most. But that being so, which apex predator would be killing off the few not dead by bacteria? etc... $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey Aug 27 '15 at 18:23
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The animal best suited and able to gnaw the zombie herd down to size would be the rat. They:

  1. Exist all over the world,
  2. Breed fast,
  3. Have a real fast metabolism,
  4. Already look at humans to provide the next meal.

I predict they will outdo feral dogs by a good margin. Next problem will be to rid the world of the rat plague...

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    $\begingroup$ Solving the rat problem is easy, bring in more cats. Next problem will be to rid the world of the cat problem... $\endgroup$ – user2547 Aug 24 '15 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ For 4, humans provide meals for rats in the sense that we leave scraps and garbage around for them to eat. They don't particularly eat us alive, except in extreme cases. You'd think rats would have to get awfully hungry before attacking a zombie that can fight back, however clumsily, and even a zombie should be able to shoo away a few rats. Unless they came in a swarm, that is. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Aug 24 '15 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @NateEldredge, ratling rush! $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 24 '15 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ There was an old ecosystem that swallowed a rat... $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Aug 24 '15 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ While I don't think rats will predate zombies, they are pretty good vectors of all sorts of infectious diseases, and Graham's answer comes into play. $\endgroup$ – Davidmh Aug 25 '15 at 8:28
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Dogs plus other Canids

superluminary makes a good point: there would be a lot of dogs. According to a Psychology Today article, there were just over half-a-billion dogs across the planet in 2012. Many (most?) would become feral, though I'm assuming some would be eaten by larger canines, and others would be eaten by humans (and zombies? hmmmm...).

But dogs are only part of the Canidae family. Other members include wolves, foxes, dingoes, jackals, etc. (Wikipedia link) who would display equal or greater ferocity then feral dogs. This would mean a likely population of close to 1 billion hungry Canids roaming the earth. Add to that their propensity to hunt in large packs as large as forty anmals (see the same Wikipedia link) -- few other apex predators would be able to stand against the sheer number of Canids. Imagine multiple packs of 30-40 of superliminal's "Rottweiler / Alsatian crossbreed(s)" ravaging through a city, killing off the zombies, rats, and almost anything else that gets in their way.

Now the twist on Bookeater's question: how do you deal with the feral Canid problem?

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    $\begingroup$ "Dingo ate my zombie!" $\endgroup$ – RoboKaren Aug 24 '15 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ This reminds me of an incredibly creepy short story. I can't remember the title, but it involves humans holed up in cities, with packs of semi-intelligent dogs owning the countryside and "culling" the humans occasionally for food. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Aug 24 '15 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @DanSmolinske might be an appropriate question for the Scifi/Fantasy SE. I know I'd surely be interested in reading that! $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Aug 24 '15 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ @WayneWerner: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/100073/… $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Aug 24 '15 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget hyenas. A different family then Canids (Hyaenidae), but similar behaviour. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Aug 25 '15 at 13:10
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Dogs

Post H1Z2 there will be many pet dogs wandering around without owners. Hungry and alone, these will quickly organise into packs, hunting other animals and ultimately attacking their former masters.

Dogs can learn by watching one another. As soon as one dog sees another enjoying a risk-free human meal, it's a slippery slope.

A female dog can have 1 litter a year. A litter is usually between 5 - 8 puppies. With plentiful walking food and no predators, the dog population should expand rapidly until a balance is restored.

The weaker dogs will be selected against. The strongest will survive and breed. I would anticipate some sort of Rottweiler / Alsatian crossbreed coming to dominance within a few generations.

Imagine an uber-scary wolf-like animal, evolved specifically to take down human prey.

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    $\begingroup$ Pack of chihuahuas hunting zombies, now that is something I want to see in a movie! $\endgroup$ – Lope Aug 23 '15 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect the chihuahuas would not last too long :) $\endgroup$ – superluminary Aug 23 '15 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ That's one of the reasons ;) $\endgroup$ – Lope Aug 24 '15 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Lope you should probably go play Tokyo Jungle then $\endgroup$ – Gilsham Aug 25 '15 at 20:50
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I could imagine vultures and other carrion birds being a good solution.

They'd start out by pecking on expired staggerers and then as their numbers increase and they learn not to fear their new prey and would start attacking the most lame ones in a group.

It may even lead to changes in behaviour of those carrion birds over time.

Birds are more numerous than mammalian hunters and should reproduce faster too (I am speculating here).

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  • $\begingroup$ I also like birds, having a different brain layout than mammels. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 24 '15 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ yeah - no reason why crows, seagulls and other more aggressive avians couldn't participate as well. $\endgroup$ – rumguff Aug 24 '15 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ Carrion birds probably aren't the most reliable solution. They (as the name implies) normally only go after carcasses. A zombie is shambling and moving around, which is significantly more moving than a dead animal body usually does and, thus, wouldn't look like a tasty meal to most carrion birds. They will rarely but sometimes go after sick or lame animals, but not often enough to be relied on to kill the most zombies. $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 24 '15 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Though, with 95% of the human population turned into zombies, there is probably a very good amount of actual carrion for a while, maybe helping boost bird populations if it lasts long enough. Then, will the inflated bird population attack zombies if it is now starving from over-population? I've never seen or heard of a carrion bird attacking a person, but it sounds feasible. (speculation) $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Aug 24 '15 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ In my answer, I nominate birds as part of a fitting solution also involving the zombie virus. Not carion birds, but smart carnivorous birds. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 24 '15 at 21:25
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Diseases. I know it's disappointing, no "bear army vs zombies", but if the zombies are basically wandering humans, with no survival instinct and trying to bite at anything with a pulse passing by, they'll get wounds, eat things not recommended, and do nothing to clean/protect themselves.

So any wound will get infectious, rot, fester, and so on. This will attract all the carrion insects and birds. And any "common" disease, such as flu, gastroenteritis or pneumonia, can become deadly to them (unless zombies still keep enough instinct to drink regularly).

Note: a group of highly contagious zombies can be quite dangerous to the survivors too, even if they manage to kill all of them.

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  • $\begingroup$ In most zombie fictions, the zombifying agent also provides a total immunity against all (other) viruses and bacteria. It doesn't have to be so in the OP's scenario, but it is the de facto standard for zombies. $\endgroup$ – Blake Walsh Aug 24 '15 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ I am aware of that, but OP's scenario states: "Zombies still have beating hearts but healing from injuries is highly impaired. The zombie's physical capabilities are exactly the same as a humans. They are as strong as, and as breakable as uninfected humans. " Now, biological "realism" aside, if we imagine that zombies are edible and clumsy, I'd bet that they'd get a hard time from crows, rodents and carrion insects, taking them piece by piece. But if they're not "that" slow to react, herds of dogs could eat solitary zombies. I doubt any animal would try to attack a group though. $\endgroup$ – Majuj Aug 24 '15 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'll just leave this here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necrotizing_fasciitis $\endgroup$ – IchabodE Aug 24 '15 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ See my comment on Graham's answer but I don't think this fits the OP's question. Nothing is stopping you from taking disease's in consideration, but it is not an apex predator. Regardless of if it's the main cause of death. $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey Aug 27 '15 at 18:27
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enter image description here enter image description here

Hyenas.

Hyenas make a living off carrion and pack hunting.

The hyena jaw and neck is an impressive feat of biology. For an animal where adult males weigh in at just 120lbs, their 1100PSI bite is monstrously powerful and practically tailor-made for crushing bones and general dismemberment. Compare adult male tigers and gorrillas, packing comparable bite force yet weighing in at anywhere from 400 to 800lbs. Wolves bite at only 400PSI and have nothing like the neck and shoulder musculature that hyenas use to tear apart their prey.

Hyenas move in clans of up to 80 individuals, and have a height advantage over other canids, being 75-85cm at the shoulder, thus able to tear out humanoid throats with minimal charging room.

Lower body weight than larger animals with comparable force delivery means more massive packs of hyenas more quickly (gestation time is 100 days for every 2-4 cub litter), leading to geometric reduction of zombies as their biomass is converted to hyena biomass. See "attacks on humans".

Soon your zombie problem will be a hyena problem.

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What throws my initial thoughts off is that these 'zombies' are not undead. They are clumbsy people with severe intellectual impairments - I don't know that they would last long enough for any predator to develop the habits of attacking them.

Most animals avoid humans - it would take a very long time to change that instinct. The big cats and crocodiles might be the large predators with the most impact on the infected, but their numbers are tiny, so would only have the most incidental effect.

The primary cause of death, which will very rapidly kill off most of the zombies, is starvation. Feeding the human population takes a very large coordinated effort - a bunch of zombies stumbling around scavenging for food will very quickly starve to death. This would provide some carrion in the form of the dead humans to feed those still alive, which might then turn into the zombies just skipping the 'wait until dead' part and hunting each other for cannibalism.

Following that, disease is going to take out a lot of them. Humans are not carrion-eaters, so without cooking, I suspect tainted food and water would kill many more zombies than any predation (especially with cannibalism of infected humans).

Injury and infections will quickly kill off most of the rest. Clumsy unintelligent humans with impaired ability to heal, scavenging raw food, will quickly fall victim to even simple injuries turning fatal (either through lack of basic first aid tending wounds or from infections setting in with even small cuts not cleaned becoming fatal).

I would expect this zombie event to largely burn itself out within 2 months at most. Far too short a time-span for predators to even take much notice, much less change their instincts from avoiding humans to preying on them in any significant numbers.

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Maggots. Not exactly an apex predator. But whether anyone wants it or not it's natures way of dealing with rotting meat. No number of tooth and claw predators will be able to keep up with the speed they chomp through flesh and reduce the herds to piles of bones and mush.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since the walkers here are infected-but-alive rather than walking-dead, they wouldn't have much in the way of rotting flesh, unless perhaps in localised regions that have suffered injury. In that case the presence of maggots in the wound could very well increase its lifespan, in preventing infection from spreading further. $\endgroup$ – Jon Hanna Aug 25 '15 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ @joehanna en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myiasis Screwfly; attacks living flesh. Won't be being kept in check anymore. $\endgroup$ – user3082 Sep 24 '15 at 6:25
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As you point out, any large predator should be plenty able to kill a human, given a reason to do it. Hunting for food could certainly be one such reason.

Tigers already kill humans directly, and according to Wikipedia (cited),

tigers cause more human deaths through direct attack than any other wild mammal.

It takes no great stretch of imagination to see those tigers gaining an advantage in a world where killing of these zombie-humans is essentially free of risk yet still provides a decent meal for the animal.

Tigers are not particularly numerous currently, numbering some 5,000 in the wild, about half of which live in India and a tenth respectively in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Russia. It is certainly possible that virtually absent predation from humans, and presented with a low-risk source of food, this number could rise, but that would take some time; at the very least, you'd be looking at years or decades for any significant increase in the population.

If you want something to present persistent predation on these zombie-humans over time, tigers may be it, or at least a part of the overall answer. If you want a cataclysmic-type predator in our current world, there just aren't enough tigers to go around to provide it, and you'd have to look at predators that are far more numerous in the wild.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually there are more tigers living in captivity in North America, so if that is your solution then you need to go to zoos and exotic animal ranches and release them. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Aug 23 '15 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ So basically there is a zombie apocalypse, but it ends because all the zombies are eaten by tigers. AWESOME! $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 23 '15 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides True, I only considered the wild population on the assumption that most "humans" alive would either retain the desire to live, or become too apathetic to care about the death of others, so neither side would have any motive for doing something like that. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 24 '15 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ The 5% remaining human could learn to ride tigers. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Aug 24 '15 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ Besides which, the 5% humans don't have to be able to outrun the tiger, they just need to be able to outrun the nearest zombie. They might consider releasing the tigers to be a risk worth taking, especially if they like tigers. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Aug 25 '15 at 0:58
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One thought I had was that since animals only kill for survival, not for sport, and since the zombies aren't an obvious, direct threat to any animal, it would come down to whatever predator had the greatest caloric needs. But then I remembered having read that POLAR BEARS are an exception to this, that they actively hunt humans and will even enter villages to attack. Therefore, they would be the only animal not limited by their actual consumptionary needs.

Now, we just need to figure out how to herd all the zombies into Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and Norway.

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    $\begingroup$ Herding billions of zombies from all over the world to greenland? Sounds easy. Almost as easy as evacuating billions of people from Rhode Island. $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout Aug 24 '15 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about most animals but anyone with cat(s) will know that they hunt for sport. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake Aug 24 '15 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ @VakusDrake Hunt for sport, yes, but not kill for sport. The cat plays catch-and-release, but eventually kills, and eats the kill. House cats will kill a mouse and not eat it, but that's only because they intend to offer the kill as a gift to their guardian. $\endgroup$ – Dan Henderson Aug 24 '15 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ Well my cats never offered me the mice they killed, sometimes they didn't even eat the mice they killed. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake Aug 24 '15 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ @DanHenderson cats definitly KILL for sport. When living in the jungle, I once woke up and see 20 dead big cockroach on the kitchen floor. I suspect bigger feline would do the same with zombies $\endgroup$ – Madlozoz Sep 5 '16 at 6:01
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Diseases affect species in different ways. A disease that jumps species will probably be more of a messy hazard than a symbiote, and more accomodating with established hosts.

So the same disease (or a different assortment of strains, implied by your flu notation) might make a different species a better predator.

In fact, infecting the prey for easier killing later might be a specific adaptation (think Komodo Dragons).

So the zombie primates will be preyed on by zombie-infected avians, which have substantial brainpower but have the brain arrqnged in a totally different way. The zombie infection makes birds smarter and able to form small-range hive minds.

Crows (smart, gregarious, carnivorous) will be in prime position to pick off zombies. Pigeons will not be interested unless it also gives them a taste for meat. Hawks and eagles and falcons are not forming groups so don't get the hive-mind, but are pretty smart onntheir own. Perhaps the corvids will find a way to work with them.

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Noninfected Humans.

Now, most of the zombie problem will take care of itself as mentioned above, but if you're talking apex predators, it will be humans, mainly because of the characteristics of these zombies. You've set up a scenario where someone hunting (or defending) against zombies has a serious advantage over your typical undead zombie: blow the arm off a Romero zombie, they keep coming and will stay around until you deal with the brain, even if most of the body is missing. Cut the arm off one of these living zombies, or otherwise seriously wound them, and they're unconscious due to shock within minutes and dead shortly thereafter.

It's an ideal situation for firepower. Even wounding works because they'll eventually be dead of infection. And given the mental impairment, they can't learn from their own mistakes or observation of others making mistakes, so the same tactics can be used against them again and again.

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Given the large amount of 95% of the worlds population spread all over the world. And also respecting that the Zombies are equal to humans except the fact that they behave different (but still taste the same as humans).

Your Zombie Joe would be the biggest threat predator to your Zombie Jim, as true humans will be rare to find. But your Zombies are everywhere!

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Deadly animals are not always predators.

Especially in Africa, some animals (hippo, rhino, somewhat elephant) tend to charge any potential threat. It is their way to teach lions or humans "Don't even think of approaching us".
But zombies are slow learner. They would be trampled by the million.

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It would appear as if your virus simply turns people into dumb clumsy psychopaths. This being the case, the zombies are now essentially downgraded monkeys, but as living things, are still insanely adaptable and would probably eventually over come the virus, except... monkeys. Yes, they're not predators, but apart from the 5% of humans still alive, the y are now the Earth's dominant species. If zombies even happen to come their way, they'll seem like hairless monkeys invading their territory, and the monkeys will attack. If not, it's highly possible that monkeys will eventually reach human levels of intelligence, and either, A. The zombies will have come to be smart as well, and war will ensue, or B. Monkeys will take over, and finding human artifacts showing our pasa cruelty to animals, decide we should be purged.

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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't hold my breath for the monkey takeover, given that "5% of the world's population" is also known as "the world's population some time between 0 and 1400", and monkeys can't use ploughs. It's not as if it was neck-and-neck between us and tamarins until the high middle ages ;-) The zombie apocalypse will be a serious blow, don't get me wrong, but with these numbers the survivors still have a head start on a bunch of monkeys when it comes to establishing an agriculture-fuelled world-spanning population. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Aug 25 '15 at 0:51
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If we interpret the question to apply to efficiency in terms of those zombies that actually enter the apex predator's habitat, then...

SHARKS

Definitely one of the most efficient killers out there, especially once they frenzy.
Now we just have to figure out how to herd all the zombies into the ocean...

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The Sun + A door + themselves will deal with any zombie horde within a few days at most. I don't see the need for, or time to get, something to be trained up to go kill them.

If they are dead, they will rot within a day. If they are alive they will die in less than a week due to not getting any water, cuz they won't drink it probably. If this isn't the case, there is no reason to attack me vs other zombie who are slower, dumber, and in greater number.

The bigger problem is cleaning up, not the zombies themselves.

If you just don't want to follow this, cats and dogs will eat humans and there is enough of them to take care of a zombie horde too. And they would turn on a human if they try to eat them so... yeah.

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