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Animals in

Did you know that Northern and North-Eastern Australia have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and are most of the time completely deserted? The reason is Australia has many dangerous animals inhabiting the land. It is very difficult to come across one of these gorgeous animals if you are in the city, but you must take care if you adventure into the more remote areas of Australia.

  Box Jellyfish - One of the more deadly animals on the face of the Earth, also called "Sea Wasp". The jelly-fish has a square body, and lives in Northern and North-Eastern Australia. It can be found near the coast along all the Great Barrier Reef which extends as far as 2000 Km. The toxin present on the tentacles (which may reach several feet in length) is so strong, that the few survivors from an encounter with a box jellyfish describe it more as an electrical shock than a burn. After contact, the person will probably leave the water screaming and will faint on the sand with marks on the body that look like streaks. Depending on the area affected, Cardio-Respiratory functions may stop in just 3 minutes, and mouth to mouth resuscitation and first aid procedures are essential to keep the victim alive. It's essential that you stay with the victim, and send someone to phone for or get an ambulance. Vinegar and peeing on the spot may reduce the pain a little bit, but medical assistance is vital to save the victim. The box jellyfish is responsible for more deaths in Australia than snakes, sharks, and salt water crocodiles put together.

Note: Never try to remove a Box Jellyfish tentacle from someone (unless wearing gloves), or you may find yourself in the same position as the victim! Likewise, when resuscitating the victim, take care not to touch affected areas of the person or parts of the Box Jellyfish with your body.

The Box Jellyfish reproduces inside mangrove around Cairns and Port Douglas region, and there has been an increase in numbers for the last couple of years. Scientists don't know why exactly, but they suspect it is due to the diminishing population of sea turtles which are immune to the poison because of their thick shell. Fortunately, the box jellyfish shows up only between November and March. Many councils and beaches in these regions fence the beach with a net during jellyfish season, to protect swimmers. Tackle shops and beach gear shops also sell a kind of vest similar to the ones surfers use, that protects the body as long as you keep your head out of the water.

Curiosity: Some years ago, a Cyclone was forming on the Pacific Ocean, far away from the shore. At the same time an unusual migration of Box jellyfish, to rivers and mangroves in the region was filmed. The sea became literally free of jellyfish. This fact attracted Scientists' attention; despite knowing about the Cyclone, they had no idea which direction it was heading in, or even if it was going to dissolve somewhere in the Pacific. The fact is that 48 hours later, the region suffered one of the worse Cyclones in history. How the box jellyfish had a previous knowledge about the event is still a mystery.

Last casuality: January 2006 -  A 9 years old girl was with the family in a beach in the Australian Northeast. Even taken to the nearest hospital, she couldn't survive the toxins of the Box Jellyfish.

Irukandji- Another jellyfish but instead of having several tentacles, it is only 1 centimetre or half an inch in length. It can barely be spotted by the naked eye. In the week we wrote this page, 2 deaths were registered by this jellyfish which is the smallest animal on earth capable of killing humans. They inhabit the same region, but instead of killing in a matter of minutes the symptoms are progressive and may take more than 24 hours to show up. Years before, the symptoms were associated with natural causes such as a heart attack or something else, because they are easily confused with pain in the back, difficulty breathing etc.. Only a few years ago scientist started to associate these symptoms and deaths with something so minute as this jellyfish. If the symptoms are not treated in a hospital they may cause death. At present, an University in Cairns has been conducting researches on this animal. 

Note: On many beaches in the North-Eastern part of Australia you may find that at the main beach access, there will be a box (like a letter box) containing a bottle of Vinegar to be used in emergencies for box jellyfish and other jellyfish. If there isn't one, most people have vinegar in their homes and are always happy to help someone who has been stung. 

Salt Water Crocodile (Photo on the top of this page)  As if it's not enough having jellyfish and sharks in the waters off Cairns, Port Douglas, North/East and Northern Territory, God decided to place another beautiful creature there to make paradise not so inviting. These places are full of salt water crocs, happily inhabiting the region. They are 7 meter long monsters; extremely strong, and very ugly! Human meat is not their favorite, but they attack anything that moves around them including sharks. They can be found in any river or beach and can go 200 Km (150 miles) inland or out into the ocean. Differing from the fresh water croc, the salt water one sleeps and swims on the bottom, making it sometimes difficult to spot until its jaws are closed. They never swallow a human, but have enough power to break us in a half and slice us in pieces, leaving us ready to be crab food. This year a German tourist was killed while swimming in the Northern Territory. (In a place marked DANGEROUS - DO NOT SWIM, CROCODILES LIVE HERE!) That's why it is very important to ask local people if the place you plan to swim in is safe or not. By the way, Crocs are a protected species in Australia and if you kill one you are in trouble, but they can kill you anytime they want. Be sure about that.

Blue Ring Octopus - This gorgeous animal with many blue rings on the body inhabits the Great Barrier Reef. They are not aggressive and don't grow too much, but if you grab them they will release poison kept in their sting. This poison is very powerful similar to snake bite, and can easily kill a human if medical attention is not given within a couple hours.

Barrier Reef Cone Shell-  Barrier Reef Cone Shell - The same as the blue ring octopus, it has spots or zigzagging lines on the shell. Immediate medical attention is also required.

Scorpion Fish & Stone Fish -  Scorpion Fish - Another amazing animal from the same family as the Lion Fish. Long spines on the dorsal can contain enough poison to kill. They inhabit every area of Australia and prefer coral reefs. They are curious, friendly and approachable creatures but if you touch their spines or stand on them you will experience the worst pains. The best first aid to offer is: to place the area affected in the hottest water you can handle and them get to the hospital ASAP. Note: It's not necessary to turn the ambulance siren on. Your screaming will do the job very well. The Scorpion fish - This one loves river mouths and rocks instead of coral, but they live in coral too. It is can be found anywhere in Australia, and you should wear shoes when walking on submerged rocks and coral. If you catch one on line, you are better off cutting the line than trying to remove it from the hook. Also this one is ugly, not charming like the Scorpion fish. Hospital, again with sirens will be your destiny if you get stung.

Funnel Web, Red Back, White Tail -  They are all spiders, in reality little spiders with very powerful venom. Australia is full of different spider species which are found everywhere in Australian backyards, bush, beaches etc...All three spiders mentioned above can be lethal and requires immediate medical attention for the victim, just like a snake bite. The Funnel Web is found more in New South Wales, and its nest is easy to spot because of its funnel shaped web. The Red Back as the name says, has a red stripe along its black back. It is found all over Australia in every single backyard including mine. It is a cousin of the American Black Widow and it doesn't discriminate between country and city. It's easy to spot because the web has a cotton shape that covers the entrance of the hole it lives in. One real danger, is when you sit down on a rest area toilet on a highway. They hide underneath normally in groups. The white tail is rarer, and I hadn't seen even one.

Kangaroo-  are not really dangerous in the wild, but think about running one over while you driving?! They are about half the size of a cow and can cause serious damage to your car and its occupants. Kangaroos in Australia are free roaming and in huge numbers. On one of our trips, we counted 27 dead in 80 Km (50 miles) of road. For more safety on the roads outside urban centres, try not to drive between sunset and sunrise. To minimize problems with the increasing number of Roos in Australia, the Government authorized the culling of 15,000 kangaroos in 2002.

Sharks-  They are everywhere inhabiting all Australian coastal waters. But surprisingly they kill less and cause less harm to humans, than snakes and all of the beautiful creatures mentioned above. In the last couple of years Brazil has had many more shark attacks than Australia, and it seems they have enough food from the ocean, not to need human food. Anyway, it doesn't mean that you are safe. Pay attention when swimming. Some beaches in Australia have shark nets to protect the bathers. Note also that some canals in Australia, like the Gold Coast canal system, have become a reproduction area for some species and all care is recommended; do not swim at night in these beautiful and calm canals. (2 victims died in the last 2 years). Talking about White Pointers, they are protected a species in Australia, and if you kill one, the Government will kill you - I mean, fine or jail you.

Note 1 : The White Shark is not the most dangerous shark in Australia.  "Bull Sharks" had killed more people than all others combined

Nota 2 : Evict to swim between sunset and sunrise. These are the hours sharks are looking for food especially when the water is murky.

Nota 3 : Only ten people die in the world every year by shark attack. But 150 die from a coconut falling right on the head.

Nota 4 : Australia was second place in the world in 2004 for shark attacks, loosing only to United States, but Australia had more deaths as a consequence of the attacks. See below, statistics of shark attacks in Australia since 1791

State Attacks Deaths Last Attack
NSW 123 61 1993
QLD 90 39 2006
WA 31 10 2004
SA 28 15 2005
VIC 19 8 1970
TAS 8 4 1993
NT 2 2 1938

Font: Journal Gold Coast Bulletin

Snakes - Of the 10 most dangerous snakes in the world, 8 are Australian. The most poisonous snake in the world, is the TAIPAN, whose venom is strong enough to kill 100 adults with only one bite. In second place comes the Brown Snake, capable of sending many to heaven with one bite also. In third, the Tiger Snake, which is as dangerous as the Brown. To the ones who wish to visit the Coast line and walk on the hills over the grass, be aware that it may be dangerous especially during summer time. If bitten, a bandage wrapped around the area is the best thing you can do before getting help as soon as possible. (Try to remember the colour and shape of the snake to describe to the doctor). If you get in a situation where you have a snake a few feet away from you, the best thing to do is to stand still, and wait for the snake to leave.

Rivers and Canals: also have some dangers, not only from sharks but also from sting rays. They are very friendly animals and usually they get away from you, but if you stand on them, the sting from their tail, will give you an unforgettable pain.. As the Scorpion fish, no siren will be necessary on your way to hospital. The great Steve Irwin "Crocodile Hunter" died in September 2006 during a film footage when the sting from a sting ray trespassed his heart. He was a big loss to Australia and to the world.

Attention:  When travelling to remote areas of Australia, always ask the local population about the dangers. Sometimes an empty beach bordering paradise can be full of Box Jellyfish, Irukandjis, salt water crocs, sting rays and sharks, all happily sharing the same habitat. Lakes and gorges can have fresh water crocodiles as well. So, before you do that special Tarzan style jump into unknown water, ask the locals if it is OK to do it

It's very difficult to be a victim of these animals while you are in Australia, but this page was created to alert you of their existence. Every one of these animals has an important role to play in nature, and despite the fact that they can harm us, they should be protected from unnecessary killing. It is just a matter of leaving them alone. By the way, traffic accidents in Australia kill more people every year than all these animals together. 

A Sign at a Noosa (Sunshine Coast - QLD) beach access

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