Pictures of oversized creepy-crawlies and mega crocs going viral on the internet give Australia’s wildlife an infamous reputation. Does living there mean you’re constantly looking over your shoulder for a hairy-scary? More than 20 million people make Australia their home – and they don’t all share Steve Irwin’s passion for biting things.
The continent of Australia is one of the oldest in the world and thanks to its specific weather patterns and geographic isolation, it has developed one of the most unique bio-diversities in the world. Many birds, plants, animals and reptiles found in Australia cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Some are cuddly and others… not.
Let’s start with a big one – Saltwater crocodiles are common in the northern parts of Australia. They also frequently feature in scary films and nightmares (generally the scene where they jump out of the water to pounce on prey). Salties live in mangrove swamps, brackish water and river deltas along the northern Australian coast.
The authorities have taken care to mark out and signpost saltwater crocodile territory so the locals steer clear. Most human and saltie croc encounters (reported to be two to three per year) that take place today happen when people ignore those warnings. While crocs are dangerous, unless you’re playing chicken with them in the swamps, you are safe.
‘Snake season’ in Australia is during the summer. While the bushland is where most snakes call home, a few do turn up in suburban backyards. The shrubbery, plant cover and water access make it tempting to do so. As a rule, snakes usually go about their own business, giving humans and pets a wide berth. Many are non-venomous and all are just as scared of you as you are of them. They are great to control pest populations and they really don’t want to have anything to do with you.
Save your local snake-catcher’s number in your phone and learn correct protocol on what to do if you cross paths with one. The only place on earth without native snake species is NZ so you’ve been very spoiled so far in life. The risk of you dying of snakebite in Australia is not high.
These spiders are quite common in Australia and yes, they are pretty big – the Golden Huntsman from Queensland is said to be the second largest of the spider species. But the good news is that they’re not at all interested in humans and generally scurry away at super speed (for a spider) to escape from predators like humans. They are excellent pest control, keeping your home free of cockroaches and other bugs.
According to experts, if they are pushed to bite, they generally give you defensive nips and don’t inject venom. To be on the safe side always use a container to secure and scoop up a spider before you toss him or her out into the garden.
These are a venomous variety of the box jellyfish species. These are so tiny that it’s extremely difficult (nearly impossible) to spot them in the water. They are found in northern Australian waters during jellyfish season. Stay out of the water in these regions during this season, locals will be able to advise if you’re putting yourself in danger. The death rate due to Irukandji syndrome is quite low and there is treatment for it.
More than just creepy crawlies
Put away sensationalised media articles and videos that are made only with the hope of them going viral. People in Australia have co-habited with non-human creatures for generations, just as people do all over the world. The creatures in Australia maybe a little different but let’s not forget that their biodiversity is what also gave us incredibly cute koalas and kangaroos.
To shake off the heebie-jeebies from visualising spiders and snakes, we now give you beautiful and cuddly-looking Australian wildlife that you may encounter (besides the Koalas, Kangaroos and Kookaburras):
Brightly coloured and beautiful, it’s a real treat when a flock of these birds land on a tree. They can be found in areas around north Queensland, all down the eastern coast to parts of southern Australia. They thrive on pollen, nectar and fruit.
Echidnas and Platypus
Both of these are egg-laying mammals and super cute, although you do wonder what God was thinking when he created them. Echidnas are native to Australia and covered with spikes (like a porcupine or hedgehog) but their faces are incredibly sweet. Likewise, the platypus is a flat billed inhabitant of Eastern Australia. They rarely leave the riverbank and spend a lot of time in the water looking for food. It’s their flat beaked, flat footed waddle that endears them to humans.
Only about 40 cm in length, these possum-like creatures hang on to trees in the coastal regions of north and east Australia. A special membrane that extends between their fore and hind limbs allow them to ‘glide’ from one tree to another. People love their tiny size and big eyes.
Despite sharing our world with so many other creatures, the biggest threat to the survival of humans, remains, humans. So, set your fears to rest and remember that when it comes to dealing with Australian wildlife, just do as the Australians do.