Travels with Siri – deadliest continent in the world?
Siri, when I prepared for my trip of Australia, and even now when I post pictures and tell stories, people told me to please be really careful because Australia is so very dangerous when it comes to fauna. I should especially be aware and watch the snake because they are real killers. And yet, people have lived on that continent for thousands of years. Even the newbies that have come here for the last 200 years have done fine. So what about the statement that Australia is the most venomous country in the world? Is it true or not?
Good question, Valentina. What you can basically say is that like so many other statements that are made about something people overstate things. It is true that Australia has some very venomous snakes. You could even argue that they are the most dangerous ones in the world.
How come people decided to live on this continent then? And does that mean I shouldn’t travel outside the cities?
Absolutely not! That is totally panicking. Look, like with everything dangerous you have to know where it is, how it behaves, how to try to omit an encounter with it and IF there was an attack, how to deal with it.
Sounds logical; can you give me some specifics when it comes to snakes? I heard all of the snakes in Australia are venomous.
Valentina, Valentina, how many times have I told you not to believe everything people say! There are different types of python in Australia and pythons are not venomous. They might strangle you to death, but not bite you to death.
Well, that’s comforting. Thanks. Do I have to take a poster or booklet of all the snakes with me to know which one is dangerous and which one isn’t? I mean, I don’t think I could really tell what kind of snake it is when I meat one.
You certainly could do that. You might learn something. Other than that the best advice is simply to stay away from them. Keep your distance. If you ask Australians, most of the will tell you they have never seen a snake or maybe just one or two in their lives. By the way, that has nothing to do with living in a city or in the countryside. Snakes, like spiders, are pretty much everywhere. Yet, you won’t necessarily see them.
Okay. Let’s say I do encounter one, what do I do?
Stay calm is the first thing. Then it all depends how close you are to the snake. If you are a few meters away, take out your camera and shoot a photo. If you are closer, watch the snake and don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t give the snake a reason to become aggressive or afraid. It will definitely strike at you then. If the snake is really close just stand still and let it go its way.
I could make some noise and stomp my foot to warn it.
Sure. You could also lie down and kiss it and tell it you love it. No, stupid, no stomping! Just stand still. Or sit. Just don’t move.
Got it. Still, there have been snakebites. Is there a survival chance if I was bitten?
Generally speaking, yes. But it all depends on the circumstances. First of all, if you get bitten, what you need to do is put a compression bandage on a pressure immobilisation bandage immediately. It helps to slow down the movement of the venom in the body. Don't make it too firm, it shouldn't stop the blood flow. The bandage should be firm enough to compress the lymph vessels. It should stay in place until a doctor takes care of the victim. That goes for bites in the arm or in the leg. Logically the extremities are the usual parts that are bitten.
What if it bites me in the butt?
Then you apply the bandage around your butt up around your upper body to prevent the venom to get to your heart. It’s always about trying to stop the venom from getting to your heart. And don’t even think about taking your clothes off to get to the bite. Just put the bandage over the clothes and try not to wipe off the venom. Australia is the only country in the world that has a venom-identification kit. They will swipe the venom and analyse it quickly so they know what antidote to give you. The importance is to be calm and try not to move around at all. The less you move the slower the venom travels in your body. And don’t think about catching the snake or taking a picture of it. It will most likely result in another bite.
That’s good to know. Still I hope I’ll never get bitten.
Not to worry, really. Between the year 2000 and 2016 only 35 people died of snakebites in Australia. Not too bad for your most venomous country in the world, right? Did you know that more people die from snakebites in India every year?
Is that so? I know they have king cobra there. But they play with it and attract tourists with them!
Yes, they do. And it happens that neither tourists nor natives consider the risks and get bitten and die shortly after. Every year about 46.000 people die from snakebites in India. 46.000! And you worry about Australia.
I see what you mean. Apart from the public panicking and telltales, there is surely some truth in Australia being the most venomous place in the world.
Alright, I see you still can’t get rid of that idea. Let’s see. When you broaden your view and don’t just look at snakes but at other animals as well you’ll see that other continents have actually more venomous animals than Australia. South America and Africa have many more venomous species than Australia, including more venomous lizards and venomous mammals. When you simply consider snakes, there is an ecologist from Australia who did some numbers and his result is that ‘Australia has a slightly higher ratio of lethally venomous to non-lethal snakes compared to the US, but it's more or less the same as Japan, and lower than that of Europe.’
So what you’re saying is it’s all a big fuss about nothing really.
Yes. There are venomous and poisonous animals all over the world. Inform yourself of the dangers, but don’t be intimidated and don’t decide not to travel.
Thank you, Siri. Like always, a fountain of wisdom.