Image by Michael Leunig
During the past half century Australians have absorbed their legendry with the quaint fervour of tribal sports fans.
A key pillar of this self-adoration is the mighty assertion that our animals are the planet’s most dangerous.
Of course they are, but it’s a polite and friendly deadliness that enquires, “How are yer goin’ mate?” as you’re bitten or stung to death.
Beloved among Terra Australis’ kingdom of ferocious fauna are the estuarine crocodile, Inland taipan, Eastern brown snake, redback spider, funnel web spider, stonefish, Irukandji jellyfish, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus… well, the list is almost endless. Our venomous snakes alone exceed 100 species.
Australian animals can be quite thuggish, however, preferring to savage the unwary human, rather than eat or poison them.
Consider, for example, our sweet-natured Cassowary. Upon luring a naïve human into its territory with a beautiful display of colour and feigned shyness, the bugger turns on you and reveals a foul disposition. You are kicked, pushed, pecked, charged at, jumped on and head-butted. Almost always, following this ritual assault, the beastly cassowary presses its 12 inch claw to the victim’s throat and threatens reprisal should an incident report reach the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Be wary of Cass.
Japanese and Chinese tourists, despite repeated travel advisories, continue flocking to Australia expecting to fondle the dangerous and absurdly cute Koala Drop Bear (KDB). Photographs of these monsters populating tourism brochures and videos fail to mention these are drugged and defanged koalas. Feral KDBs will dismount a tree and scurry across the ground to another, purportedly seeking a more aromatic eucalypt. Do not be fooled, that is the decoy bear. Should you look up, and unfortunately be under a tree, there – clustered like furry coconuts – drop bears gather for the kill.
Heading the list of Australia’s most dangerous animals is a bird well known around the planet: the magpie. Eons of evolution have been unkind to our variant. The Australian Magpie is so malevolent that a specialist police unit was created to hunt and shoot magpies that attack humans. This is the only animal – other than sharks and crocodiles – that is hunted and killed for attacking people.
However, the magpie is vastly more dangerous and cunning than those two benign predators.
Maulings of two swimmers by sharks in the Witsundays failed to ease the national trauma of the previous week’s horror in which a brutal attack – “sadistic and bestial” according to witnesses – upon an elderly woman caused her to stumble and scratch her knee.
The quiet village of Lismore in northern NSW responded to the civic emergency with professionalism and swift justice.
The local police Mag-Swat team lit up its retinas and took out the vicious creature with a fine head shot. They believe it was a head shot, that is, as no remains of the feathered aggressor were found… except the feathers.