The cuddly and the deadly
Koalas, kangaroos and wombats are creatures coming to most travellers’ minds wanting to venture down under. They are cute, cuddly and pretty. Then there is crocodiles, sharks, snakes and spiders that equally call Australia home.
I never give the second list much thought and to be fair how often do I marvel at kangaroos? Having said this, just the last few weeks I noticed a dramatic increase of red back spiders around our place. As most of you know, they are small (usually not bigger than a thumbnail, this one is even a bit smaller, although I have seen some big fat versions too), black spiders with a bright red cross on their backs. Most often you find their well crafted webs, three-dimensional strings attached to pots, outdoor furniture or the like. This one was behind our laundry door (with the emphasis on was).
Unfortunately they are very, very poisonous. If, God forbid, you do get bitten you’ve got to hurry, hurry, hurry, rush, rush…well, you get the drift.
With our last trip to Germany the usual creepy-crawly discussion was inevitable again and usually I tend to play down the dangers of Australia. Yes, this country is home to most of the deadliest spiders and snakes. Admittedly, sharks love these shores and every now and then do take a little nibble on divers or surfers.
I then usually go on and explain that in almost a decade of living here I can count the number of snakes I have seen (excluding visits to the zoo) on two fingers – mind you, we do go bush a fair bid and still have nothing to show for ourselves. I did see plenty of crocodiles and luckily I have never seen a shark in real life (I hope I’m not jinxing my luck here).
To be fair, this personal statistic looks different for a friend of mine who is also from Germany and has worked on farms for many months. Here , she said, snakes were part of the daily scenery. So much so that she told me the following story – to make it funny for the anglo-tongue you need to know the German word for “snake” and “queue” are the same (= “Schlange”). After having travelled and worked around the country she went back to Germany for a visit. During a shopping trip with her sis and ma they were waiting outside a shop for their mum. Getting annoyed with the long wait her sister took a look into the shop and said “Oh Mann, was fuer’ne Schlange” (“oh man, what a queue” [please remember here it’s the same word for snake]). Confused and puzzled at this my friend looked around the ground and wondered what on earth a snake would do in good old Germany.
While the story might not translate that well after all what I want to say is that you pretty much get used to your environment you don’t even think about it anymore.
Back to my Red Backs – I wonder how parents of little infants respond to the danger of all things creepy crawly around here – parents please share your approaches!
Those of you who still believe visits to this place will cause a sudden and painful death by dangerous creatures that are just out there waiting for you to get off the plane please note the statistics on the leading causes of death provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics: First and foremost most people here die of hearth disease followed by strokes, dementia and lung cancer.
External causes of deaths account for 6.3% with transport accidents leading the way followed by falls, then accidental poisoning (which could be all sorts of things, I believe, not just snake or spider bites).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a spider fan myself, but the statistics say particularly if you’re female the odds are in your favor and chances are you’ll be alright.