Australia might make you think of sunshine, sandy beaches, and the wide-open outback, but the country isn’t all koala bears and kangaroos. No, Australia is home to some of the most dangerous and infamous wildlife on the planet. Its diverse fauna contains some pretty nasty and scary animals that might make you think twice before heading Down Under.
While most animals there are harmless, others present a threat to your mortality. After all, one of the country’s most beloved exports was a crocodile hunter who was impaled by a stingray. Steve Irwin opened the world’s eyes to the many animals living in Australia, but there are some he failed to mention. You could chalk that up to his interests or could it have been a huge conspiracy by Australia’s board of tourism? Because once you know what lurks down under, you are probably going to stay far, far away.
The Australian cassowary is a large flightless bird that’s the heaviest in Australia and the second heaviest bird on the planet. They can grow up to 6 feet tall (you read that correctly) and weigh almost 200 pounds. That’s a lot of bird.
While these birds feed on fruit, they have been known to attack humans. They’re very territorial. Most attacks on humans result in people being kicked, pushed, pecked, charged at, jumped on, and head-butted. Which is the best-case scenario because they’re equipped with a lethal dagger-like claw that measures almost 5 inches in length. We don’t want anything to do with that!
Sydney Funnel-Web Spider
An icon of fear and fascination is the Sydney Funnel-web which holds venom that is one of the most toxic to humans. A bite from this venomous mygalomorph spider should be treated similarly to a snake bite. Although this spider is responsible for 13 reported deaths in New South Wales since the introduction of anti-venom in 1981, there have been no fatalities.
We would not put that past this little, lethal devil that generally measures 2 inches or less in length.
Australia is known for its vast, picturesque beaches. The next creature on the list is found not far from them. The Australian Box Jellyfish has venom that lies in its 15 tentacles, that can reach a length of 9 feet, holding around 5,000 stinging cells each. Yikes! The venom isn’t triggered by touch, rather it is triggered by a chemical reaction with the outer layer of their prey (skin, scales, etc.).
Although there are about 50 different species of box jellyfish found in warm coastal waters, very few have venoms that are lethal to humans. Over the last 100 years, the box jellyfish has been responsible for over 60 deaths. The victims generally go into shock resulting in drowning, or they have died from heart failure.
If you watched Steve Irwin, you probably got a look at a few of these crocodiles. Said to be one of the most dangerous animals in Australia, the Saltwater Crocodile is an aggressive and territorial animal and is the largest reptile in the world in terms of their mass – known to reach over 2,500 pounds. How is that possible? Oh, yes, they can grow to be almost 20 feet long. That’s one big reptile! Ahhhhhh!
Unlike other creatures found in this country, this croc is known to result in an average of less than one human killing per year. Right… We wonder how many people disappear under mysterious circumstances because we doubt this big boy leaves a trace. Eeek!
Blue-ringed octopi live in coral reefs and tide pools in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans reaching from Australia to Japan. Each year several humans are bitten, and although the bites are ordinarily painless, within five to ten minutes the victim can start to experience paresthesias, numbness, muscular weakness, and difficulty breathing and swallowing.
Currently, there is no antidote, the victim simply has to wait it out. The blue-ringed octopus is often overlooked due to its small size. Fully grown, it reaches the size of a golf ball. However, you should keep an eye out for their bright, glowing blue rings. They mean danger!
Of the 3 reported deaths from these little murderous monsters, 2 have been in Australian waters. Swim at your own peril.
The Australian scrub python is indigenous to the forests of Northern Australia. These big serpents can grow to almost 30 feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds because why not? It’s Australia. Most of these snakes, however, average at about 6 feet in length. The bigger ones enjoy a diet of wallabies and Australian possums called cuscus. They like to wait on a riverbank until prey comes for a drink, then they attack. Stay out of the water!
Flying-foxes are nomadic mammals that travel across large areas of Australia feeding on native blossoms and fruits, spreading seeds and pollinating native plants. Generally, they’re about a foot in length and weigh 2 pounds. It’s the wingspan that’s truly terrifying, 3 feet is average. They don’t just stay in the wild either. The largest park in Sydney is home to an estimated 50,000 of these flying-fox monsters.
Perhaps we watched Jurrasic Park too many times as children, but this frilled lizard instills fear and turns us to stone. Also known as the Australian frilled dragon, these lovely reptiles can grow to 3 feet in length. It loves spending its time in the trees eating beetles and other insects with the occasional mouse thrown in.
When the lizard is frightened, it produces a startling display: it gapes its mouth, exposing a bright pink or yellow lining; it spreads out its frill, displaying bright orange and red scales; raises its body, and sometimes holds its tail above its body. With that in mind, Australians love keeping these as pets and they’re commonly referred to as “frillies.” Whew! No thanks.
It might scare you to death but the huntsman spider is one of the least dangerous in Australia. It’s commonly found in gardens munching on crickets and lizards (this spider is so big it preys on lizards) and occasionally sneaks into a home. These spiders can measure 12 inches across which makes us want to die. Males are known to emit a rattling sound when they smell a female. The sounds get even weirder as they mate. We are glad there are oceans between us.
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Australia is home to a number of species of megabats which are simply very, very, large fruitbats. The great flying fox (not to be confused with flying-foxes) is one such bat that resembles a dog and its face and body are covered with fur. The wingspan on this giant dog-bat can measure 6 feet. 6 feet! 6 FEET. While they mostly roost in trees, they can often be found in urban environments. So, nowhere is safe. The only risk these vampire monsters present to humans is the spread of a number of viruses they carry around with them (oh hi! coronavirus).
Well, they’ve got the bats, snakes, crocs, lizards, octopi, and birds that we never, ever want to encounter in real life. Australia, we love you, but we are worried about your citizenry. We’re not sure how they cohabitate with so many strange animals, but we suppose there are crazy animals in the USA and elsewhere.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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