I’ve never had an issue with wildlife – spiders and even snakes never really phased me. Until now. The wildlife here in Australia is completely different than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. While it’s all so diverse, much of it can kill you – quickly.
Australia, in all its beauty, is a pretty harsh continent. From the Outback, to the tropics up North, this continent isn’t for the faint of hearted. Australia has more species of venomous snakes than any country on earth. In fact, all the snakes found in Tasmania are poisonous (granted, there are only 3). The “champion” of all poisonous snakes in Australia,is the Taipan which is considered 50 times more venomous than the cobra. In fact, Australia has six of the top ten most venomous snakes in the world.
Fortunately, most of the snakes tend to mind their own business. I’ve only seen two in my four years of living here. Spiders however, are far more common to tread across. As with snakes, spiders rank amongst the most dangerous. THE most dangerous spider in the world is the “Sydney Funnel Web Spider”. Appropriately named, this spider resides only the Sydney area. If you’re not visiting Sydney, or making the move here, you’ve got one less thing to worry about. If you are, you really have nothing to worry about, unless you’re completely careless about where you stick your hand. The far more common “Redback Spider” is the culprit of the majority of spider bites in Australia. For you Americans, this guy looks a lot like a Black Widow Spider, only 3x as poisonous. Of those bitten, the majority are the guys, spending entirely too much time in the outhouse. I’ve come across this spider in the greens bin while mowing the lawn. Creepy looking, but no match for my large wooden plank. Stefan 1, Spider 0.
If escaping to the beach is your idea of a safe haven, think again. Great White Sharks, Blue Bottle Jellyfish, the Box Jellyfish, the Stone Fish, all call Australia home. We’re all familiar with the Great White Shark, but what is a Blue Bottle, a Box Jellyfish, and a Stone Fish?
The Blue Bottle jellyfish, or commonly referred to as the “Portuguese Man O’ War”, is actually a siphonophore—a colony of specialized polyps. That’s all well and good, and interesting to the scientific community, but when it stings, it stings like a jellyfish, and hurts. A lot. Bluebottles have a float or bottle-shaped blue sac, which sits on the water’s surface. They have many string-like tentacles hanging down from the float. Usually, you can see them in the water, or there are signs alerting you to their presence.
The sting from the tentacles is dangerous to humans. These stings usually cause excruciating pain, and have even been the cause of several deaths. Detached tentacles and specimens which wash up on shore can sting just as painfully as the intact creature in the water for weeks after their detachment. Medical attention is usually necessary, especially in extreme cases.
The Box Jellyfish (also known as a Sea Wasp) is a very dangerous creature to inhabit Australian waters. The Jellyfish has extreme toxins present on its tentacles, which when in contact with a human, can stop cardio-respiratory functions in as little as three minutes. This jellyfish is responsible for more deaths in Australian than snakes, sharks and salt water crocodiles.
The creature has a square body and inhabits the north east areas of Australia. The tentacles may reach up to 80 cms in length. It is found along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef. They are arguably the most venomous creatures in the world. Stings from such species are excruciatingly painful, either initially or as an after-effect, and are often fatal. However not all species of Box Jellyfish are this dangerous to humans. Unfortunately, the ones along the coast of Australia, are. In the Australian summer from November to April or May, box jellyfish are abundant in the warm waters of northern Australia and drive away most swimmers. However, they generally disappear during the Australian Winter.
The Stonefish is another of Australia’s deadly marine creatures. They inhabit shallow waters along the coast. The stonefish is well camouflaged in the ocean, as it is a brownish colour, and often resembles a rock, hence “Stone Fish”. Ugly bloke, isn’t he?
It has thirteen sharp dorsal spines on its back, which each have extremely toxic venom. The venom of a stonefish can kill a human in two hours, if not properly treated. If you’re swimming in a rocky area of the shore, please don’t step on that rock that has a bunch of spines sticking out of it. It’s just not a good idea. Trust me on that one.
There ARE a lot of dangerous animals in Australia, but it’s rare to come face to face with them if you use common sense. Don’t stick your hands where they don’t belong, watch where you step during your bush walks, and keep an eye out at the beach. If there are signs saying,” Hey you, don’t go in the water, stupid.”, then you probably shouldn’t. Of course, accidents happen, but there are anti venoms for most venomous creatures in Australia. Don’t let these guys keep you from seeing this beautiful country.