Australia is famous for having an abundance of wildlife and native species, however, there’s a common misconception that every animal is out to kill you. Below, we’ll debunk some common myths about Australian wildlife and teach you about some of the most native Aussie animals
For many, spiders alone might be a reason NOT to visit Australia. But don’t fear, of the 2,400+ species of spider that live in Australia, less than 50 are harmful to humans. And it is very, very unlikely you will die of a spider bite. How unlikely? Australia has had no deaths from a confirmed spider bite since 1979! Thanks to the antidotes now widely available.
This does not mean you should mess around with them. A bite from certain spiders can still make you very ill. Did you know Australia banned an episode of Peppa the pig because in the episode Peppa was friendly to a spider?! Better safe than sorry…
When facing a shark that is about to attack you, the best thing to do is… punch it in the face. No, really. Though it may sound scary, experts say the best thing to do if a shark is about to attack is to hit it first!
Now for the statistics: between 1791 and April 2018 there were (only) 237 fatal shark attacks in Australia. The odds of being killed by a shark in Australia are one in 8 million. You have more chance of being killed by a kangaroo (yes, really). Other things that are more likely to kill you than a shark include: a cow, lightning, fireworks, a lawnmower, and a champagne cork.
• Avoid areas with high seal activity.
• Don’t enter the water in areas of known shark activity.
• Low water visibility can increase the risk of an attack, so avoid swimming at dusk or dawn.
• Don’t bleed in the water.
• If you see a shark, slowly swim backward and avoid splashing.
• Warn others and tell lifeguards when there is a shark sighting.
• Most shark attack survivors lived because they had immediate aid, so don’t swim by yourself.
The dingo might just be Australia’s cutest predator. Don’t mistake a dingo for a dog, they are closely related to wolves and are to be left alone. Dingo attacks on humans are rare, and though any wild animal can be unpredictable, dingoes are naturally shy and cautious around people. When they do attack, they tend to go for small children more often. You’ll have the best chance of spotting a dingo on Fraser Island, where the last fatal dingo attack was over 20 years ago, in 2001. Though there haven’t been any recent fatal attacks, some attacks have still left people seriously wounded, and it is advised to tread carefully around dingoes.
• Stand still at your full height and fold your arms across your chest.
• Face the dingo, then calmly back away.
• If you are with another person, stand back-to-back.
• Confidently call for help.
• Wait until the dingoes are gone before you continue on your way.
• Do not run or wave your arms.
While sharks grab the headlines if they attack someone, jellyfish kill eight times as many people worldwide each year. In Australia, there is an average of less than one jellyfish death per year. The box jellyfish – considered the most venomous animal in the world, is commonly found around the Great Barrier Reef. Stingers in general are mostly found around the top of Australia but can travel as far south as Sydney and Melbourne.
Take extra care during stinger season – October/November to May. During these months, it’s always safer to swim in places where they have stinger nets up. Just beware they never give 100% protection against stingers. Some places will offer stinger suit hire, and others will enforce the wearing of stinger suits whilst swimming off one of their boats. Don’t worry about making a fashion statement, you’ll all look the same! Besides, it offers good sun protection as a bonus. You should not only be careful when swimming in the sea but also when swimming in creeks, like on Fraser Island.
Let’s get one thing straight: Steve – “Crikey!” – Irwin was very unfortunate to die in a freak accident involving a stingray. Steve was stabbed right in the heart, adding to his misfortune and leading to his death. If he had been stabbed anywhere else, he probably would have lived to tell the tale. Though thousands of stingray injuries are reported worldwide each year, only five deaths have been recorded in Australia since 1945, and only about 17 worldwide.
The drop bear is probably the least known, yet most dangerous Australian animal to humans. Most commonly found on the East Coast of Australia, drop bears are carnivorous animals that for reasons currently unknown to us are 41 times more likely to attack a tourist than an Australian! Maybe it’s the smell of vegemite that puts them off, we have yet to conduct extensive research. Though they are related to koalas, they are much more vicious creatures you want to stay well away from. Drop bears hunt by ambushing ground-dwelling animals (like humans…) from above, waiting to make a surprise kill. They drop as much as eight meters to pounce on top of the unsuspecting victim.
Now for the real dangers. Australia isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Every year tourists seriously injure themselves or even die because they underestimate the dangers of the Australian climate/terrain/wildlife etc. No reason to panic, just take these things into consideration:
Heatwaves have caused more deaths in Australia in the past 200 years than any other natural hazard. Australian sun hits different. This is because there is a hole in the Ozone layer above Australia. Did you know 2/3 of Australians get skin cancer in their life? No, that wasn’t a typo. Even if you never get burned (which, trust us, we’ve heard a lot of people say before, and… you guessed it: they got burned), it is a good idea to take these simple precautions.
Always bring enough water. Often you will be able to fill your water bottle, but don’t count on it! On long hikes, bring at least 2L of water and listen to your body: take a rest when you feel like you need to, and find the shade.
Rip currents are one of the greatest, and most common, hazards on Australian beaches. On average, 26 drownings are caused by rip currents in Australia each year! That’s in addition to the thousands of rescues lifeguards perform each year to assist swimmers who have been caught in rip currents. There are many myths about the ocean, but rips are the number one hazard on Australian beaches.
But what is a rip current? How can you identify it? How can you prevent getting stuck in a rip? And how can you get safely back to shore when you do get stuck in a rip?
Rips are strong currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag people away from the shoreline and out to deeper water. Even for the strongest swimmers, swimming against the current back to shore can sometimes be impossible. Rips can sometimes be identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea’s surface, but usually, it can be quite hard to spot them.
If you ignore these warnings, you may end up a star on Australia’s very own TV show: Bondi Rescue. In all seriousness though, don’t be one of the 26 to die in Australia due to rip currents every year.
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