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It's a popular meme, "in Australia everything tries to kill you", often backed up by the list of dangerous animals, such as box jellyfish, variety of spiders, salt water crocodiles and sharks. However it's purely anecdotal, and one could imagine similar list for example for US.

Do statistics actually confirm that Australians are more likely to be hurt or killed by animals, than people in the other regions of the world?

Update:

As it's not clear how one would measure "more danger". I'd say attacks per capita and fatalities per capita would be good metrics for comparison.

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    from my own experience, there is nothing in Central European urban areas that could try to kill you. There are some mosquitoes in the nature in mid-summer, but much fewer then what I've heard of Africa. I've met some biting flies in Slovakia but nothing deadly. The spiders that live here are very small (few mm + legs). – John Dvorak Sep 1 '13 at 15:15
  • Well, it's true, Europe is quite unique in this aspect. Although wild board do wonder into Central European suburbs, and they could be dangerous. Every now an then people get killed attempting to remove hornets' nest on their own etc. – vartec Sep 1 '13 at 15:24
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    Upvoted and starring. I'm pretty sure Czechia has zero history of jellyfish stingings, though :-) – John Dvorak Sep 1 '13 at 15:42
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    same as you won't find bears and wolves in inner cities in Europe, I doubt you'll find salties and dingos prowling the streets of Sydney. – jwenting Sep 2 '13 at 4:20
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    There is a difference between "trying to kill" and "succeeding to kill". The meem doesn't claim that Australia's animals kill the most people, it just claims that they are the most poisonous, have the sharpest teeth etc... It's a "fair" comparison between a western urban country with effective public health system and infrastructure aimed to deal with those animals and rural developing countries with almost no infrastructure or health care. – SIMEL Sep 2 '13 at 13:34
21

TLDR: No. Australia's most deadly animals are in fact foreign.

Below is a break down of animal deaths in Australia. First native animals and then non-native animals. Where discrepancies exist in the data, both values are stated.


Native Animals

Snakes: With 41 recorded deaths between 1980 and 2009 (source 1) (or 53 from 1979-1998(source 2)), snake deaths in Australia average out at less than two per year.

Spiders: Nobody in Australia has died from a spider bite since 1981 after the successful introduction of antivenom for all native species. (source 4)

Sharks: Accounted for 25 deaths between 2000 and (March) 2012 in Australia, about 2 a year. (source 1) Or 216 in 227 years (source 6).

Crocodiles: Historically, crocodiles account for less than one death per year here in Australia, although that is increasing slightly as the crocodile population rises following the ban on crocodile hunting in 1971.

Blue Ringed Octopus: Just 3 recorded deaths in the last century (source 1). Or 2 (source 7).

Stonefish: One unconfirmed death by stonefish in 1915. (source 5)

Cone Snails: 0 deaths - ever (source 1).

Killer Jellyfish: Jellyfish account for (at time of writing) 66 deaths since records began in 1883. The box jellyfish was responsible for 64 deaths, and the Irukandji the other two. It sounds a lot, but still less than one death per year, more like just half a death per year. (source 1)

Dingo: 3 deaths between 1980 and 2012. All children. (source 9)


Non - Native Animals:

Horses: Around 20 people a year die from horse riding accidents (source 1). Or 40 over 6 years (source 8)

Cows and Bulls: 20 in 6 years or 3 per year. (source 8)

Bees: Around 2-10 people per year in Australia die from European Honey Bee stings after going into anaphylactic shock.

Domesticated Dogs: 12 over 6 years or 2 per year. (source 8)


Sources:

(1).http://www.bobinoz.com/migration-advice/australias-killer-creatures-the-truth-about-deaths/

(2). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_snake_bites_in_Australia

(3). http://www.avru.org/general/general_fatals.html

(4). http://australianmuseum.net.au/Spider-facts

(5). http://australianmuseum.net.au/Reef-Stonefish-Synanceia-verrucosa-Bloch-Schneider-1801

(6). http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/shark-attacks-in-australia-timeline.htm

(7). http://www.aims.gov.au/docs/projectnet/blue-ringed-octopus.html

(8). http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/dangerous-wildlife/2008/07/04/1214951042706.html

(9). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dingo_attack

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    the whole point on "...since antivenom was introduced" seems to back up the fact that Australian fauna is more dangerous, surely? There are many lethal varieties, but there are good defences. – Rory Alsop Sep 2 '13 at 9:16
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    Counting the number of deaths may not achieve the answer we want since Australian children are taught the dangers of and how to recognise deadly fauna from a very young age. Anecdotally, I encountered brown snakes, tiger snakes, red-bellied black snakes, funnel webs, redbacks, hammerhead sharks and one blue-ringed octopus before the age of 12 and knew to stay away from them. I am also aware of shark nets protecting many of the beaches I swam at as a child (although not all of them) and beaches are sometimes closed due to stinging jellyfish. – Ladadadada Sep 2 '13 at 9:43
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    BTW. you only mention fatalities, but not risk of getting hurt not resulting in fatality. For example BobInOz source claims that "around 2,000 Redback bites occur in Australia each year". – vartec Sep 2 '13 at 11:12
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    Unqualified dangerousness... Seems like a few ways to think of it, whats more dangerous per interaction (Bites, stings, paralysis); Horses may kill more often than a Hammerhead Shark, but put 1000 people with sharks, and 1000 people with horses, I'd wager the horses less dangerous. – AthomSfere Sep 2 '13 at 16:23
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    I have to agree with the other comments here. While this is technically accurate, it's a disingenuous answer, relative to the spirit of the question - of course horses and dogs kill more people, because more people are in contact with horses and dogs. The real measurement of whether the native fauna is dangerous would have to include some measurement of deaths relative to the rate of human contact or interaction with that fauna. Which can, of course, be tricky data to get, if it exists at all. – LessPop_MoreFizz Sep 2 '13 at 17:45
13

Without a specific, notable version of this claim to address, we're just in the realm of speculation about what the meme actually means.

Here is a list of the world's deadliest animals, confirmed by two sources.

http://www.livescience.com/11325-top-10-deadliest-animals.html, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5149977/Top-10-deadliest-animals-on-the-planet.html:

  1. Mosquito (all regions) (Also see Achille et al. 2010: "In terms of morbidity and mortality caused by vector-borne diseases, mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals confronting mankind", and Wilson 2007: "The most dangerous animals on Earth are in fact mosquitoes")
  2. Asian Cobra (Asia)
  3. Australian Box Jellyfish (Australia)
  4. Great White Shark (all regions)
  5. African Lion (Africa)
  6. Crocodile (Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia)
  7. Elephant (Africa, Asia) (See Henja et al. 2012: "elephants are among the world's most dangerous animals"
  8. Polar Bear (North America, Asia)
  9. Cape Buffalo (Africa)
  10. Poison Dart Frog (Central/South America)

Of these 10, counting roughly, there 4 are present in Australia, 6 are present in Africa, 4 in South America, 4 in North America, 6 in Asia, 2 in Europe.

The most dangerous species in the world are not more present in Australia than elsewhere.

To properly answer the question "Is australian fauna more dangerous?", we'd need:

  • a ranking of all fauna by dangerousness
  • the list of fauna in Australia
  • the list of fauna elsewhere in the world

Then, we could compare the average dangerousness rank of Australian fauna vs the average rank of fauna elsewhere in the world.

References

Achille, G. N., Christophe, H. S., & Yilian, L. (2010). Effect of Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (H-14) on Culex, Aedes and Anopheles larvae (Cotonou; Benin). Stem Cell, 1(1), 60-8.

Wilson, R. I. (2007). Neurobiology: Scent secrets of insects. Nature, 445(7123), 30-31.

Hejna, P., Zátopková, L., & Šafr, M. (2012). A fatal elephant attack. Journal of forensic sciences, 57(1), 267-269.

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    While an older list, I have my doubts about the veracity, as it leaves off the Hippo. I believe the Hippo kills more people in Africa than the Crocodile and Lion. – Michael Richardson Apr 11 at 19:33

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