Whenever I speak to a fresh American, almost always the conversation turns to how I managed to survive in such a dangerous environment. They’re talking about all the deadly animals and the heat and I guess the nasty nature stuff that was used as propaganda in the days when being sent to “The Colonies” was a punishable crime, and parents would use it to keep their kids in line. I get it, my country is big and red and we have deserts to spare, but that doesn’t mean we were all raised Survivor-style then moved to the cities when we came of age.
I get asked how I deal with crocodile attacks, or what do I do when I get bitten by an enraged venomous snake, or anything whatsoever to do with spiders. Yeah, we have all those things but they’re pretty reclusive and tend to keep to themselves. It’s totally the internet’s fault for spreading this image that we’re some kind of deadly war-zone of nature. The way Reddit talks about Australia makes it seem like a Hunger Games arena.
I find myself always defending our great southern land. Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts, not Nature’s weapons. The sharks only bite people because they mistake them for a delicious seal. Once the take a bite, they spit us back out, because humans taste like shit. We are nasty poison sacks that are all bone and no meat. Spiders lurk here and there, but there is so much anti-venom available that dying from a bite is severely unlikely. Also, you have to be smart about things. You can’t live in the bush or country and just put your bare foot into a gumboot and not expect the poor red-back or white-tailed spiders, who have taken shelter in there from the terrifying country storms, to freak out at this giant foot and want to defend themselves. They’re basically screaming “DON’T TREAD ON ME MAN!” but you can’t hear their tiny spider voices so they use the only method of communication they have – their stinging bits. We are so huge and they are so small, they are clearly not trying to hunt us as prey, they just don’t want us to crush them. Anyway why would you want to? Spiders keep away the annoying pests like flies and mosquitoes and neurotic arachnophobes.
While I do find myself ferociously defending Australia and its over-hyped fauna, every now and then something weird comes up that makes it clear our reputation didn’t come out of nowhere. Someone will talk about lizards or something, and I’ll be like, “Yeah like when we were little and got the goanna talk at primary school”. People will look at me like a crazy person and demand an explanation. Goannas, for those unaware, are big lizards (not like Komodo Dragon-big, but much bigger than your average gecko, maybe like a big cat? I dunno, Google it). At least once a year we got a talk about what to do when a goanna runs toward us. They’re super chill animals (sure, they were kind of bad guys in both The Rescuers Down Under and Fern Gully, but that’s just because they have that cool bad guy look) and would never attack a human. The only reason you would ever be harmed by a goanna is if one was running toward you, freaked out probably by human presence, and climbed you thinking you were a tree. Goannas have really long, Real-Housewife-of-Atlanta, fuck-off claws so they literally shred you like paper. When scary things run toward me, my instinct is to play dead so they can’t be bothered (bears), stamp the ground so they get freaked out by the vibrations (snakes), or stand still so they don’t notice you (Jurassic Park). With goannas you just have to move about so they don’t think you’re a tree and they will go run up an actual tree. It’s super easy, but I guess pretty weird.
Also, blue ringed octopus was a thing we were warned about when we were little too. The way they told us how they lurked in the shadows of rock pools evoked images of terrifying monsters hiding in the dark awaiting its young fresh prey was pretty misleading. They’re super small, which is bad, but they’re really reclusive and pretty rare, and you can avoid being stung by either not playing in rock pools, or by poking the water with a stick or something to make sure there’s nothing leaping out at you. They’re shit poisonous though, and the fact that there isn’t an antidote is I guess kind of heavy. Just don’t play in rock pools – go swim in the actual ocean you loser.
Also, people get eaten by crocodiles all the time, but it’s not exciting monster-of-the-week stuff, it’s just the product of idiotic people ignoring all the crocodile warnings and barriers and swimming in the beautiful, alluring Northern Territory waters anyway. This is not an attack by a vicious beast, this is natural selection. Unlike sharks, crocodiles aren’t fussy and will eat all of you like nobody’s business. They will tear you apart and share you with friends and loved ones like an hors d’oeuvre platter. It’s incredibly easy not to get eaten by a crocodile; you just don’t swim where they swim. It’s not like we have to dodge them on our way to work every day Frogger style.
Box Jellyfish are also in the same category. They’re nasty; they’re like the assholes of the ocean. They’re tiny and deadly and absolutely pollute the ocean in the hottest months of summer, floating around like invisible clouds of death. Again, you can avoid them by simply not swimming in the ocean with all the warning signs. These signs aren’t subtle either, they’re radiation-warning-level-obvious, so if you swim and get bitten and die, again – natural selection.
Then there are some things that get a weird rap. Like, kangaroos aren’t worshipped like the way Egypt worships cats or anything and our children don’t ride around in their sacks. They’re kind of pests in some areas, and we hunt them and eat them – their meat is super delicious and healthy. Koalas are also way less cuddly than foreign people think they are. All they ever see are the slow and adorable varieties in the zoos, who are completely doped up on Eucalyptus leaves (note: Eucalyptus leaves are like marijuana to koalas). Real wild koalas are totally pissed off when they’re not doped up on Eucalyptus because we are cutting down all their trees and they pretty much all have Chlamydia.
Also, Tasmanian Devils don’t spin around in a comical whirlwind. In fact, they aren’t even brown, that whole character was a misinterpretation of the species.
My point is that our animals get a bad rap. They’re not going to hunt you down and eat you and your loved ones, they just don’t put up with shit. If you piss them off they’ll eat your face. I’m just saying we’re not a terrifying death island. Our wildlife is not evil.
Funnel web spiders, however are nasty fuckers. They will lurk under the lip of a swimming pool and when you dive in – run across water to eat your brains. I hate them. They can all die in fire for all I care.