Australia has a reputation for having more than its share of deadly and dangerous animals. But is this reputation well founded? The answer is both yes and no.
While it is true that Australia has some of the deadliest snakes, spiders, birds and marine animals in the world, the number of fatalities resulting from this plethora of deadly and dangerous animals is in fact extremely low – it averages only 13 an year. Four times as many Australians die by falling out of bed each year (56 deaths).
So whilst many Australian animals may be indeed be the most deadly and dangerous in the world, they have very little impact on the well-being of the human population of Australia.
There are no animals in Australia that deliberately attack humans. Given the choice they all prefer avoiding a confrontation and would rather flee than attack. With the exception of sharks and crocodiles none of these animals would ever consume a human for a meal. Therefore there is no advantage in them attacking something as large and tasteless as a person. Even sharks and crocodiles prefer leaving humans alone.
It is reasonable to say, therefore, that almost all confrontations with these animals are instigated by some foolhardy action of humans. These may include such actions as sticking their hands into a spiders web, swimming in waters infested with crocodiles or shakes, stepping on dangerous animals or invading an animal’s space.
There is no standard way of classifying the level of risk posed by various types of animals. We have formulated a common sense approach for determining the level of risk involved. Some animals may be in more than one of these groupings. For example, a bee sting is not deadly to most people; however, to some a bee sting can bring about a severe allergic reaction which in turn can cause death.
Deadly - Those animals likely to inflict death if untreated. The most venomous Australian snakes and spiders and the box jellyfish fall into this category.
Dangerous - Animals that can inflict significant injury on a human but who don't necessarily cause death. For example being mowed down by a wombat is really not much fun, and could definitely result in broken bones and other serious injuries.
Wondered why we use the term 'venomous' rather than the more common on of 'poisonous'?
Here is the reason.
A venomous animal injects or otherwise delivers its toxin into another animal. While a poisonous animal's entire body or parts of it may be contain a toxic substance that is harmful if touched or eaten.
We have grouped animals according to their modus operandi — ie how do they inflict death and injury on humans.
Venom - Typically the most deadly animals inflict their injury by stinging or biting, and injecting toxins into their victims which results in the victim's death.
Poison - These animals do not directly inflict injury on humans themselves. If, however, these animals are ingested or rubbed against, poisoning can occur resulting in serious injury or death.
Aggression - Animals in this group are those that inflict damage by brute force such as kicking, biting, and butting their victims.
The dangerous animal rating used on this page was developed by the Australian Museum, where the museum staff rated animals on a score of 10 based on the threat they pose, combined with the likelihood of encountering one. This list was published in the Australian Geographic. We have added other animals to this list. (See the Dangerous Animals Rated Index above).
A recent NCIS Fact Sheet for the period 2000-2010 states that there were 254 animal related deaths throughout Australia in this ten year period. Whilst the numbers vary from year to year, this equates to roughly 26 deaths per year overall.
Domesticated, recreational, farm animals and pets accounted for 54% of all animal related fatalities. The report states that deaths involving horses were the most common and occurred most amongst people aged between 20 and 24 years. Deaths involving dogs occurred most frequently in children under the age of 4 years or elderly people. Farming accidents probably account for the bovine related deaths.
Australian wild animals, both native and introduced, contributed to only 46% of all animal related fatalities. Deaths attributed to emus, cassowaries and kangaroos occurred indirectly as a consequence of collision with motor vehicles. They did not directly cause the death of any people.
So while Australia may indeed have the most deadly and dangerous animals the death rate is surprisingly very low. The reasons for this is twofold.
Most deadly and dangerous animals rarely come in contact with humans because they prefer avoiding humans and also in many instance they live away from human populations.
In recent years excellent medical care and the development of antivenom means that relief can be administered to the victim before the ill effect of the inflicted injury can cause death.
Cute animal with a large nose. It carries its baby in a pouch and sleeps a lot.View More
This lizard with short legs scares off predators by flashing its blue tongues.
Smallest kangaroo and only one that doesn't hop. Has very unusual characteristics
Has a huge umbrella-like frill that it pops open to scare off attackers.
This bird can imitate almost any sound it hears from sirens, chainsaws to trains.View More
He became famous when he was awarded the title of 'Ugliest Animal in the World'.View More
Large animals that carry their babies in a pouch and hop at speeds of 70kph.
Over 50 have become extinct in the last 200 years alone - That's 1 every 4 years.View More
Attacked by a dog a kangaroo defends itself. The dog got the shock of its life.
Happily chumps through all the cow poop being produced by farm animals.
A boisterous carnivorous marsupial with a shriek that sounds like a devil.View More
A bum-breathing turtle? Yes, that's right. It is critically endangered.
Marine mammals that ancient sailors thought were mermaids.View More
An odd little animals that lay eggs, but feeds their babies milk like a mammalView More
The 2nd tallest and the 2nd fastest bird in the world. A very curious bird.
Animals brought to Australia by humans. Many have become invasive and pests.