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What to do when face to face with Australia’s deadliest creatures

Australia’s fearsome reputation is well-deserved. Here, wildlife experts offer tips on what to do if you come face to face with some of our most vicious and venomous creatures.

Box Jellyfish

Box jellyfish habitat

“They’re common in the waters off Western Australia and Queensland, but occasionally reported further south too”, says D. Lisa-Ann Gershwin PhD, author of The Jellyfish App. “They’re almost transparent with the deadly Chironex variety having up to 3-metre long tentacles, so swim in beaches protected by nets,” is her advice.

They favour calm, shallow waters

“The highest risk is during November to May,” shares Dr Gershwin. “Wear a full-body skin covering such as a rash guard or wetsuit.” Kids are especially at risk.

Box jellyfish sting

Itching, cardiovascular collapse and death can occur within minutes. “Vinegar stops the venoming process, while ice and heat relieves pain,” Dr Gershwin instructs. Contrary to myth, urine may only aggravate it.

Funnel-web Spider

They love Sydney suburbs

While they’re found everywhere except the Northern Territory and Western Australia, they are most prominent on the Eastern seaboard.

When working in the garden

“Wear gloves, as they prefer sheltered, shady spots,” explains The Australian Reptile Park’s Tim Faulkner. “Do not leave clothes and towels on the floor and check shoes before putting them on. Do not handle spiders that appear to have drowned in swimming pools, as they may still be alive,” he also cautions.

Bites can cause vomiting, unconsciousness and even death

Apply a pressure-immobilisation bandage to the bite site and the adjacent limb,” advises Tim. “Then apply a splint before seeking emergency medical assistance.”

Great White Shark

Where to find great white sharks

“We encourage people not to swim in murky water and river mouths, near large populations of sea life,” says Surf Life Saving NSW spokesman, Liam Howitt.

Attacks can happen anytime

“Avoid the water at dawn, dusk and night, which are peak feeding times for sharks,” Liam shares. Using an electronic shark shield if you surf or if swimming and diving in groups is also advisable. “Also use an app such as SharkSmart, which live tweets alerts of nearby tagged sharks,” Liam suggests.

If you find yourself up close and personal

Don’t splash, and exit the water calmly. Gouge its eyes, gills or punch its nose. Fatalities are usually caused by blood loss, so try and stem the flow immediately if bitten.


Beware of infested areas in the Top End and Far North of Australia

“Don’t enter or approach the banks of the water,” says Taronga Zoo’s, Michael McFadden. Also, do not camp within 50 metres of the water's edge and only swim in designated areas.

How to avoid crocodiles

Check for eye-shine at night, frequently, and with a torch. They can move quite quickly on mud banks but tend not to run after potential prey while far from the water,” confirms Michael.

When on a boat

Do not hang limbs over the edge,” Michael warns – Crocodiles can launch themselves into the air. “Take care when getting boats and use landing nets to retrieve catches while fishing as well.”

Brown Snake

Why they are so deadly

“They are diurnal,” (active during the day), explains reptile expert, Michael McFadden. They can also move upright at high speed and are notoriously aggressive. “Their venom is so powerful it can immediately knock out its prey.”

Be careful where you tread

“Wear long pants and shoes in the bush and don’t attempt to pick up or kill a snake,” Michael says. They inhabit dry rural scrub and farmlands, where their predominantly-rodent diet lives.

Do not wash a bite

“Use the pressure immobilisation technique,” recommends Michael. “Bandage above it, up the limb.” Then apply a splint and get anti-venom treatment. A bite can cause convulsions, renal failure, paralysis and cardiac arrest.

The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.

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