Why Australian Animals Aren’t That Deadly…

Australian kangaroo

“I’d love to visit Australia but… I’m scared of all the killer animals there.”

A variation of this sentence has been uttered to me by many, many people since I started travelling at 16. It doesn’t matter where I went – Malta, Italy, London, Belgium, Germany, America – everyone thinks Australia is crawling with mutant, venom-dripping snake/shark-hybrids poised to strike down foreigners.

My Dad’s family all live in Malta so I have two cousins around my age who live there. I’ve been to Malta to see family and for special occasions at least six times. It’s a lovely place and everything but that island is TINY. You go there once for a couple of weeks and you’ve seen all the rocks and dirt that you need to see. (That was unfair. It’s got a lot of cool history. You should totally go to Malta. Especially if you like rocks and dirt. And dummies reenacting sword fights.)

Let me put that flying time in perspective for you, that’s around 138 hours spent on a plane (not all of the visits were from Australia). I don’t care who you are, that’s a bloody long time spent crammed into a tiny space wedged between two strangers.

Yet, every single time I tell my cousins that they should come out to Australia to see me next time the answer is always the same. “I watched a documentary on deadly animals and Australia has too many of them”. World’s biggest cop out. Ever.

Same goes for San Francisco. All of my colleagues are fascinated with the latest rogue goanna to go postal on a bumbling backpacker.


I did a little research and just happened to find the animals that killed the most people in both Australia and the US in the early 2000’s. It turns out, Australia isn’t as bad as you might think.
Here’s the boring stuff first: The US list was compiled by The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data spanning 2001 and 2013. Australia’s list comes from the National Coronial Information System’s aptly titled “Animal Related Deaths” fact sheet, which uses data collected between 2000 and 2010. (These were the most up to date statistics I could find).


Shark in the ocean

 US: 1
Australia: 16
Winner: US



US: 1
Australia: 9
Winner: US


Black bear

US: 1
Australia: 0
Winner: Australia


Venomous snakes and lizards

venomous snake

US: 6
Australia: 14
Winner: US



Picture: Ivan Hlusicka.
US: 7
Australia: Doesn’t make the top ten.
Winner: Australia


Non-venomous insects (such as mosquitoes, lice, fleas, ticks, mites and scorpions)

Picture: Sasa Marani.
US: 9
Australia: Doesn’t make the top ten.
Winner: Australia



Picture: Andy Stafiniak.
US: 20
Australia: 33
Winner: US


Other (including including fish, sheep, goats, camels, cats and jellyfish)

US: 52
Australia: 39
Winner: Inconclusive since the types of animals included differ



US: 28
Australia: 27
Winner: Australia, by a whisker



Picture: Andy Stafiniak.
US: 58
Australia: 16
Winner: Australia, by a long shot


So… what’s the deadliest Australian animal?

Picture: Sergio Catala.
Horses, ponies and donkies killed 77 people and put them at the top of the list. Not exactly an exotic animal confined to our shores. But look at this guy… he’s got murder on his mind.


In the grand scheme of things, we’re at Four All. And Australia’s animals aren’t particularly prevalent. Sure I left out the mentions of emus and kangaroos, which killed five and eighteen people respectively. But I think you’ll agree that those numbers over a decade are pretty tiny.


Don’t forget traffic deaths to put it all in perspective

US (2001-2013): 33,000
Australia (2001-2013): 19,565
Long story short, just come to Australia for a holiday. You’re more likely to die in a car crash in the US than get crushed by a horse in Oz.
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11 thoughts on “Why Australian Animals Aren’t That Deadly…

  1. This is a relieving post to read! Before visiting Australia for a summer we heard so many “horror stories” to the point where both my husband and I started questioning if they were true. However during our time there we hardly saw any of these dangerous animals nor had any unfortunate encounters when we did! I think it’s best to stay cautious but let’s face it… where we live in the U.S. has tons of poisonous snakes but we’ve never had an incident.

    1. Wherever I travel, I always hear about how dangerous Australian animals are. It’s not true, sure I’ve seen my share of red belly black and brown snakes in my life, and lots of white tailed spiders. But I’ve never been bitten and none of them have ever actually come near me. I call that a win.
      I think we just like to scare the tourists 😉

    1. I forgot to check out the mass shooting rates for comparison. Although, the United Airlines thing is a distinct possibility, considering how they overbook flights (not that we don’t do it too in Australia).

  2. I have always dreamed of going to Australia. I hope to be there by next year. Everyone keeps telling me I am crazy for wanted to put myself in danger! I will have to show them this post, and try my hardest to stay away from ponies.

  3. Love Malta! We visited on a cruise for a day in September and loved it so much we returned for a week in Nov/Dec! So beautiful and so much fascinating history!

    1. I’m so glad that you loved Malta so much! I’ve been so many times that I think I’ve seen almost everything. It is a lovely place, if a bit crowded.

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