I have been living in Australia for over a year now and somehow managed to not get attacked by a drop bear yet. (For those of you who don’t know what a drop bear is, keep reading…) Fortunately, I haven’t been attacked by any of the countless deadly animals living here. I consider this a major accomplishment being the accident-prone person that I am, so I decided to compose a list of all the animals I have survived so far. Here are 13 terrifying animals in Australia I’ve been lucky enough to not die from yet:
There are about 400 species of sharks world-wide; about 180 of them live in Australian waters, including the world’s largest, the whale shark, one of the smallest, the pygmy shark, and of course, the absolutely terrifying great white. Just recently there was a shark attack at my favourite beach in Byron Bay, killing a 50 year old man. Talk about unlucky… Sharks reside in all habitats around the Australian coastline. Many are found in coastal waters, but some are even found in rivers. That’s probably why I’ve even been warned not to swim in the Brisbane river.
Australia is home to about 140 species of land snakes, some equipped with more toxic venom than any other snakes in the world. Of course the world’s most venomous snake, the inland taipan, lives in Australia and has enough venom in just one bite to kill several humans. Luckily enough it lives on a remote desert in south-western Queensland. Due to it’s exotic location, there have been no recorded deaths by this creature. Snake bites are surprisingly quite rare in Australia and with the development of anti-venom, fatalities have fortunately been lowered.
The Huntsman spiders are commonly found in Australia. They are big and scary but in reality, they are reluctant to bite and more likely to run away when approached. Their venom isn’t considered dangerous for humans but boy are they creepy. However, other spiders in Australia are creepy AND deadly, such as the Sydney funnel-web, which produces highly toxic venom. The Sydney funnel-web spider is the deadliest spider in Australia and possibly the world. Located in New South Wales, they burrow in humid sheltered places in forests as well as populated urban areas.
4. Box Jellyfish
Known for lurking in the tropical oceans around northern Australia, the box jellyfish is one of the most powerful stingers in Australia. Responsible for 70 deaths in the country, it takes victims by wrapping its three meter tentacles around the unsuspecting prey. Venom is injected through small receptors along the tentacles and so the severity of the sting correlates to the amount of the tentacle that touches the skin. In addition to being very painful, the venom attacks the muscles around the lungs and heart resulting in paralysis of both these organs and making death unavoidable without treatment. October is one of the prime months the box jellyfish is spotted, so it’s time to watch out.
Crocodiles are prominent in aboriginal culture, appearing frequently in stories, songs, artwork and other parts of the culture. Australia hosts two different species of crocodiles- both native to Tropical Queensland. The freshwater crocodile is found in inland freshwater areas of the Australian tropics and occasionally in the tidal portions of rivers, while the saltwater crocodile is found in estuaries, rivers, lagoons and swamps of the Australian tropics, from along the east coast south of Mackay all the up the coast to Cape York, and across the coastline of the northern half of Australia. They are also found off beaches, and even up rivers and creeks in this region. Freshwater crocs feed off smaller prey and have never attacked without being provoked. Saltwater crocs on the otherhand are capable of eating very large prey, including cattle, horses, wallabies, pigs, and even other crocodiles. Humans are also included in the size range of the prey of saltwater crocodiles 3 meters and over, and attacks on humans occur ever year.
They may not look like much, but I’ve been warned to keep my distance or they may swoop you. They are all around Australia but during breeding season become very aggressive and will attack humans and pets, usually pedestrians and cyclists walking in their “defence zone”. Most swoops on people are caused by male magpies defending their eggs and chicks, which are in the nest for about six to eight weeks between July and November. So basically if you see a Magpie’s nest— stay away.
7. The Blue Ringed Octopus
Found throughout Australia’s coastal waters, the Blue Ringed Octopus is a pale brown to yellow colour when resting. The blue rings on its body light up as a warning when the animal feels threatened. If you see the blue rings, you’re screwed. Do not touch one of these things; it carries enough poison to kill 26 adults within minutes.
The cassowary is only found in the tropical rainforests of north-east Queensland, Papua New Guinea and some surrounding islands. Cassowaries are uncommon and hard to find, but if someone were to see one, it’s important not to approach it as their behaviour is unpredictable. They can inflict serious injuries by kicking with their large clawed feet. In a 2003 study, there were 150 cassowary attacks against humans. 75% of these were from cassowaries that had been fed by people. 71% of the time the bird chased or charged the victim. 15% of the time they kicked. 73% involved the birds expecting or snatching food, 5% involved defending natural food sources, 15% involved defending themselves from attack, 7% involved defending their chicks or eggs. Only one attack resulted in death. Still scary.
Speaking of kicking, kangaroos can kick the shit out of you. Don’t get me wrong, the risk of being attacked by a kangaroo is very low and they are by far my favourite animal. But if someone messes with a kangaroo or it’s environment, they will attack a person as if they were another kangaroo. It may push with its forepaws or sit back and kick out with its hind legs. Resulting injuries can be serious, so it’s important to avoid conflict with the kangas.
10. Bull Ants
Yep that’s right, even the ants here can kill you. Bull ants are about 2.5cm long and use their large, pincer-like jaws to clamp onto their target and then repeatedly inject them with the venom of their small stinger. The venom itself is painful but not fatal, however the allergies of some victims require immediate medical attention. Bull ants are not necessarily dangerous due to the toxicity, but because of their aggression and frequent contact with people.
11. Honey Bee
As if bees weren’t scary enough, in Australia the European honey bee is extremely dangerous to those who are allergic to their venom. Allergies to the venom are responsible for more annual average deaths than sharks, spiders or snakes. They insert their stinging barb into their victim along with a sack of venom. Luckily karma’s a bitch and as the stinger detaches from the bee, it kills it.
The legendary “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin was killed after being stung in the chest multiple times by a sting ray in the Great Barrier Reef. Rays are closely related to sharks as their skeletons are made from cartilage, which has strengthening properties like bone, but is lighter and more flexible. There is a vast array of ray species varying in shapes and sizes worldwide. Many are found in Western Australia and all along the coastline, including the largest ray in the world, the manta.
13. Drop Bears
Just a few nights after moving into my apartment in South Brisbane, I was warned about the drop bears. A Drop Bear is a large marsupial related to the Koala. They’re carnivorous, and about the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur and powerful forearms for climbing and holding on to their prey. These vicious creatures live in gum trees and supposedly jump down onto your head to attack you. Drop Bears are only found in the densely forested regions of the Great Dividing Range in South-eastern Australia, and occasionally in South-east South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges and Kangaroo Island. There’s also an immunisation for them that most Australians apparently get when they’re younger, so they have nothing to fear; But as for us tourists, there are still some other remedies that act as a repellent to Drop Bears. Spreading Vegemite (an Australian spread which most foreigners hate) behind your ears should keep them away.
So maybe they aren’t all as deadly as they seem; some are just painful or plain ol’ creepy. Luckily death is avoidable thanks to the knowledge we have about these animals. It is good to know what’s out there and what to look out for. If you’re ever in Australia, now you’ll know what to keep an eye out for. Or else keep that Vegemite with you to be safe.