I’ve always been a fan of Steve’s, and his death in 2006 was very sad. He did so many great things for this country. But bringing the world’s attention to the dangerous creatures in Australia has helped to perpetuate fear in overseas residents.
It’s not all Steve’s fault, I think all Aussies are as much to blame. We all have that pride in our tough reputation – we love to tell the world about our dangerous animals, cos it makes us sound bad-ass. Like Fat Amy (played by Aussie Rebel Wilson) in the movie Pitch Perfect, who had “wrestled crocodiles and dingoes simultaneously” (and yes, I have pulled that line out at times).
Or the Scared Weird Little guys, who are Aussie musical comedians. They made this (hilarious) song about the dangerous animals in Australia:
Or memes like this, that most of the Aussies on Facebook have shared or liked at some stage:
What does this mean for our overseas guests? First, they are all scared to come here in the first place. Second, when they do get here, they spend a fair percentage of their time here checking their rooms for creepy crawlies, and jumping at the sight of any rustling in a garden.
I’m not exaggerating here. I had an American friend stay with me last year – she spent the first 5 minutes carefully inspecting the walls and ceiling of her room before putting her bags down. As though there might be killer ninja spiders waiting to devour her in her sleep. My parents have lots of overseas visitors to their B&B do the same.
So, despite our bravado, here is the real story. Yes, Australia has a lot of dangerous animals. But no more than the rest of the world (Africa anyone?).
If you have common sense, you have nothing to fear. I’m talking the basics here, like don’t go swimming in north Queensland or the Northern Territory if there is a sign saying “caution – Crocodiles”. If you didn’t know, we are a bit of a nanny state. You will almost certainly see warning signs if there is any danger. So provided you can follow instructions, you will be fine.
I tried to find some statistics to put your mind at ease, but they aren’t all that easy to find. Here’s what I could find – mainly thanks to BobinOz who has written many posts trying to put the Brit’s mind at ease.
While there a quite a few spider bites each year, most of them are from non-dangerous spiders, so the victims only get a sore hand or a headache for a bit. No one has died from a spider bit in Australia since 1979 when antivenom was introduced. Spiders really should not be a concern.
OK, so people do still die from snake bites – on average it is about 4 per year (that’s the ENTIRE COUNTRY, not my town by the way). But almost all of these are people who were doing something stupid, like trying to pick it up.
I have lived in country areas for most of my life. I have seen snakes while hiking in the bush, and when I lived on a farm we got some in the house. But all of them have bolted when the knew I was there. Common sense people – you are unlikely to see one unless you are bushwalking, and if you do, it will leave faster than you will. Stop stressing.
Yeah, so, crocodiles kind of make me nervous. They are basically dinosaurs, and unlike the others on this list they will actually attack you.
We have two types – saltwater crocs (salties) and freshwater crocs (freshies). The salties are far more dangerous, but I wouldn’t take on a freshie either.
However, they are only in certain parts of the country (other than zoos, or course). Basically, anything north of the Tropic of Capricorn. And they do attack and kill many people each year, but again, these are nearly always people who were doing something they were told not to, like swim in the wrong part of a river or fish from the bank rather than a boat.
I’ve been to north Queensland a few times, and believe me, there are warning signs EVERYWHERE that there is a risk. So you really don’t need to be worried, just be sensible.
We have some of the best beaches in the world, but like every other beach, the ocean hides some nasties. Sharks mainly attack surfers, probably due to the fact that most people swim in patrolled beaches whereas the surfers are on the more dangerous beaches and there is no one watching to alert them if a shark is nearby. Jellyfish are a worry, although they rarely kill. They can cause agonising pain though, particularly the irukandji jellyfish. Provided you swim at a patrolled beach, you should be fine – they close the beach if jellyfish too bad. There is also the blue-ringed octopus, but if you go touching unknown animals I have little sympathy. Remember that common sense nonsense?
Basically, none of our creatures should even affect your travel here, other than if you want to see them, in which case, Australia Zoo is your first stop. But they should definitely not prevent you from coming.
I originally wanted to call this post “Thanks for Nothing, Steve Irwin” but it sounded a little too disrespectful to a great man, especially when nearly every Australian is just as much to blame. So if you are concerned at all about visiting anywhere in Australia, whether you are local or not, keep in mind that we kinda exaggerate our wildlife.
Except for drop bears – but that’s a post for another time…