10 Creatures That Can Kill You in Australia


So you’re going to Australia. You’re going to dive the Barrier Reef, drive the Great Ocean Road, sleep in a swag under the stars, root a sheila in a dunny. Slow down friend, before you go Down Under it’s important to know that Australia is not all billabongs and kookaburras that sit in old gum trees. The place is choc-a-block with a menagerie of venomous, sharp-teethed, flesh-eating stingers, biters and slashers. It’s no wonder Russel Crowe is so cranky – the amount of deadly creatures lurking around every corner is enough to put anyone on edge.

Luckily for you, with your soft, vulnerable skin and pathetic lack of venom, you have this handy guide to Australia’s little assassins.

 1. Blue-Ringed Octopus

“Awww cute!” you think as you peer through your rented goggles, spluttering as salty water splashes into your snorkel. An octopus no larger than a golf ball clings to a head of coral, its bright blue rings glowing up at you, beckoning you to come closer.

Even as it bites you, you think, “That’s not so bad, I just feel a little tingly.”

But beware this tingly kiss of death! The blue-ringed octopus is one of Australia’s most deadly sea-creatures, second only to the Box Jellyfish (we’ll deal with him in a minute). Infecting you with neuromuscular venom in its saliva, it will have blocked your nerve conduction causing motor paralysis within minutes, and eventually cardiac arrest.

Did I mention there’s no known antidote? The only way to survive these toxic effects would be to receive 24 hours of CPR and resuscitation, after which the venom loses its potency and you return to normal.

So if you’re planning on playing with these little guys, don’t forget to pack your breath mints.

2. Box Jellyfish

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. With 5500 deaths since 1884, the box jellyfish is not only one of the most venomous creatures in Australia, but in the world. Be very wary of the seemingly harmless blobs floating past in the current, those lovely long tentacles will most likely have you dead before you can reach the shore for help.

Also known as a Sea-wasp, this jellyfish even starred in a movie alongside Will Smith: 7 Pounds (2008). Without spoiling it for you, all I can say is that it didn’t end well for either of them.

Box jellyfish are transparent, so chances are you won’t even know it’s there until its tentacles eject sharp, poison-tipped adhesive capsules onto your skin, shutting down your respiratory system in minutes, while pain and shock cause you to drown before you make it to shore for the anti-venom.

They are found alongside the Great Barrier Reef between October and May, and swimming is forbidden unless protective nets are installed. Pay attention to warnings and signs, these blobs don’t mess around.

3. Sharks

No news here, sharks are hungry, toothy monsters, or so Jaws would have us believe. In reality sharks rarely attack people; something about our skin just doesn’t digest well. That said, the sharks that do like the taste of people tend to live around Australia. Perhaps all that shrimp on the barbie makes Aussies yummier: there are about 15 shark attacks every year Down Under, and at least one of them is fatal. Most beaches have shark nets, so if you swim between the flags, avoid turbid or murky waters, don’t go swimming alone or after dark and don’t dip yourself in blood before you go out, you should be fine. Areas with shark activity are clearly marked, so if you go swimming when there’s a shark flag out, maybe getting chomped is nature’s idea of natural selection. Alternatively, take a slower friend with you.

4. Saltwater Crocodiles

There are two kind of crocodiles in Australia: freshies and salties. Freshies are smaller and don’t like eating people unless they are annoying them and need to be taught a lesson. Salties, on the other hand, love nothing more than a delicious person-burger, an arm-sandwich or torso-casserole. About two people are killed by salties every year in Australia, and that’s supposed to be a good statistic.

At about 20 feet long and weighing up to 1000kg, these crocs are the largest reptiles in the world and they mean business. If you are stupid enough to ignore warning signs and go swimming in a billabong infested with salties, the ambush will come as a shock as the croc clamps its jaws shut and dives underwater, attempting to drown you and rip you in half. This is called a death-roll. The name is not a euphemism.

The good news is, over the last century more than half of Australia’s 100+ croc victims have survived, albeit missing a few bits and pieces.

Saltwater crocs mostly live in freshwater creeks and billabongs, but have also been known to swim miles out to sea. Luckily, they’re a little easier to spot than the other creatures we’ve discussed.

6. Stonefish

Like the box jellyfish, stonefish are hard to spot, camouflaged against rocky outcrops around the Queensland Barrier Reef to look like…rocky outcrops. They keep their potent neurotoxins in their 13 dorsal spines, which stick up when they’re disturbed or threatened. Once you stand on them the pain is excruciating, resulting in muscle weakness, paralysis and, yes, death if not treated. On the bright side the Aussies are pretty used to distributing stonefish anti-venom, it’s the 2nd most administered anti-venom in Australia, so death is unlikely. But be aware – stonefish stings can occur on the beach as the little devils are able to stay out of the water for up to 24 hours at a time.

6. Seasnakes

So, you’ve got tiny octopi that paralyse you with their spit. You’ve got invisible jellyfish that will have you dead before you even reach the shore. Then there are the sharks and crocodiles that will feast on your tasty limbs, and don’t forget the stonefish, the fish that lies,¬†quietly disguised as a rock, until it injects your unsuspecting foot with excruciatingly painful neurotoxins. Can the Australian ocean get any more lethal? Well, yes.

There are 32 species of sea snakes in Australian waters, and while they usually aren’t aggressive, they have a deadly venom that is more toxic than that of land snakes. Normally found in shallow water, sea snakes are curious creatures and are known to become fascinated by other long, snake-like objects (so gents, avoid skinny dipping). Provoked snakes can become aggressive and persistent, although they are normally only aggressive during the mating season in winter.

Once bitten, you won’t be in much pain until after about 30 minutes. Then you will feel stiffness, muscle aches, jaw spasms and pain in the affected limb. This is followed by the usual drowsiness and respiratory paralysis that you should be used to by now. Luckily there is an anti-venom available but it’s probably better to avoid these suckers altogether.

7. Geography Cones

So you’re fed up of the sea and all its stinging, biting, death-rolling residents. The beach seems safer, as long as you watch out for fish that look like stones that can survive out of water. Not a lot can harm you here, you think to yourself as you wander along collecting shells.

But you’re wrong. Lurking in those shells is a creature with one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man: the Geography Cone.

The Geography Cone is also known as the Cigarette Snail, the name implying that when stung by this creature, the victim will have only enough time to smoke a cigarette before dying. The bright colours of its shell make it attractive and entice you to pick it up. Once you pick it up, it fires a harpoon-like tooth into your hand, injecting you with its venom. Now that you’ve been injected, you can expect swelling, numbness, tingling and vomiting. This will lead to muscle paralysis, respiratory failure and death if left untreated.

As there is no anti-venom, treatment involves keeping you alive until your body has metabolised the venom. Almost makes you want to go back into the sea, doesn’t it?

8. Inland Taipans

Of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world, 20 are found in Australia. Of these, the most venomous is the Inland Taipan, or the Fierce Snake. This guy has enough venom in one bite to kill 100 people; he is the most venomous snake in the world. So pull your socks up mates, this is not a snake to be reckoned with!

You’re most likely to find the Inland Taipan in a sugarcane field hunting for rats. Not big fans of cold winters, they live in the far north of Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Luckily, the name Fierce Snake is referring to the ferocity of its venom and not its personality. Inland Taipans are shy by nature (blushing every time they shed) and don’t come looking for trouble, so unless you really irritate them you should be fine. No one has been killed by them yet, and you wouldn’t want to be the first idiot would you? Don’t forget that the Inland Taipan isn’t the only snake you’re worrying about – there are hundred of kinds of poisonous snakes just waiting to strike. About 3000 Australians are bitten by snakes every year, and those who don’t make it to an anti-venom die. So, always wear thick footwear, don’t go walking through tall grass areas and snooping around snake holes is a no-no.

9. Sydney Funnel-Web Spider

While Australia is full of enough spiders guaranteed to make you girlfriend scream louder than you ever will, there is one that you should be especially wary of: The Sydney funnel-web spider.

The funnel-web spider is found across eastern Australia, and is especially fond of humans. In fact, most other mammals are resistant to the funnel-web’s venom, packed with at least 40 different toxic proteins. Not you though! One bite from a funnel-web will cause a massive electrical overload of your nervous system, leading to mouth numbness, vomiting, salivation and a heart attack. Eventually the capillaries around your lungs will begin to leak fluid until you drown in your own juices. This can all happen within just two hours, so it’s probably a good idea to get yourself to a hospital for some anti-venom ASAP. The anti-venom was discovered in 1980 and since then there have been no deaths, but again, you don’t want to be the first.

Want to avoid it altogether? Good luck, this hairy, black, lethal-fanged beast lives in cities, garages, tool sheds and houses. And guess what? It swims.

10. Cassowary Birds

So the sea is deadly and there are snakes, spiders and killer shells lurking everywhere. “At least the birds Down Under are nice,” you think to yourself. Think again. Australia is home to the crankiest, most dangerous bird in the world, the Cassowary.

Cassowaries have been around since the dinosaurs, and it’s easy to see why. These birds are fiercely territorial, and are most likely to attack you if you come between them and their young or them and their food (they like fruit). Their 5-inch claws can split you open in a couple of seconds, and they slash rather than poke.

There has only been one recorded human death caused by a cassowary: 16 year old Phillip McClean had his throat slit by one of the bird’s claws when he tried to attack it with a club. Cassowaries have also been known to disembowel dogs who chase them and cause internal bleeding with their powerful kicks to the stomach.

Cassowaries can move too, reaching speeds of 50 km/h and jumping up to five feet in the air. And they can swim, so your best bet if being chased by one is probably to climb a tree. Bear in mind however, that if it’s a tree dropping fruit you might be up there for a while, as Cassowaries will defend a food store for days.

11: Bonus Killer: You.

There’s a reason why Australia is a water-locked continent: geography is trying to protect you. If you decide to ignore geography’s warnings, then don’t fall prey to your own ignorance. Look out for signs warning against sharks, jellyfish, saltwater crocs and other nasties. Don’t swim alone, and for goodness sake, swim between the flags! Don’t pick up shells that are trying to scuttle away, or poke around in snake holes. Don’t feed the cassowaries! Most creatures only attack if provoked, so keep out of their way and they’ll keep out of yours. These things can kill you, but they don’t have to. The fact is, you’re more likely to die from heatstroke than a snake bite, so pay attention to the elements and plan ahead. Unless you plan on developing a hard outer shell, sharpening your gnashers and producing some kind of lethal toxin, these creatures have the upper hand. Don’t piss them off.

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6 thoughts on “10 Creatures That Can Kill You in Australia

  1. tashinorbu says:

    Hi I liked your post. It’s a funny reputation Australia has. I think you should have included the brown snake. It is extremely venomous and quite commonly found. If you get hit you dont have much time with one of those ‘cute’ snakes.

    I liked the post.

    • Jacs says:

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! It is an odd reputation, but I kinda like the “wild-ness” of Australia. It’s exciting that things are so harsh and so extreme (so long as I’m not on the biting end I guess). It would be hard to include every animal that can kill you, from hundreds of snakes and spiders to random poisonous fish like the lion fish etc. It’s quite ridiculous how lethal is here! I’ll keep a special eye out for that cute brown snake, thanks for the heads-up :)

  2. Captain Kirk says:

    I think you are a sissy. That said, I loved your post. Your sense of humour keeps jumping out at me. Torso Casseroles. Yum.

  3. Jacs says:

    Rather be an alive sissy than a dead daredevil.
    Thanks for the support captain :)

  4. DodoHen says:

    your article made me chuckle out loud though I very much doubt I would be laughing if I met any of these creatures. Urine lessens the sting of a stonefish.

  5. Great post! I’ve always wanted to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef…might be re-thinking that about now!

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