For most Australians, summer means getting back to nature — in the surf, in the bush or even just good old-fashioned backyard barbecuing. But the downside of nature in Australia is that there are plenty of animals in it, and many of them are able to kill you. These creatures are an absolute boon to tabloid writers. But which of our native nasties — crocodiles, sharks or snakes — get the most media glory?
We asked media monitoring company Isentia to compile data on media mentions for snakes, sharks and crocodiles since December 1, 2015. The NT News‘ love of crocs may have given the scaly creatures an outsized place in our media landscape — they merited almost as many press mentions (569) as sharks (587), even though sharks are much more deadly.
This week a newspaper in the central Queensland city of Rockhampton published footage of a croc allegedly “stalking” people fishing on the banks of the Fitzroy River. This pushes up the media mentions of crocs, although careful management of crocodile populations means they’re less likely to be hanging around populated areas. Online news sources also love a good croc story.
Media mentions of crocodile attacks/warnings
What about snakes? They are almost as deadly as crocodiles, but their larger reptilian cousins get all the glory. Australia is home to 20 of the world’s 25 most venomous snakes — including the world’s most venomous snake, the inland taipan — and at least eight people have died from snake bites since 2010. But we’re disappointed in you, tabloid media. Snakes don’t seem to make for as good copy this summer.
Media mentions of snake bites/warnings
Since 2000, sharks have killed more people (31) than snakes (13) and crocodiles (14) combined, with 38% of those fatal attacks occurring in Western Australia and the frequency of attacks increasing over the past five years. The media coverage has increased too — remember professional surfer Mick Fanning’s close brush with a shark while competing in South Africa last year? — with more stories about shark attacks than any other dangerous animal. NSW and WA are both implementing shark management strategies, but it’s unclear if these measures will make ocean swimming any safer. If you really want to avoid sharks, go ocean swimming in Victoria, where there hasn’t been a shark attack since the 1950s. The NT also has a low count of fatal shark attacks, although that is probably thanks to the crocs.
Media mentions of shark bites/warnings
If you really want to keep yourself safe from killer animals, however, stay away from horses, donkeys and ponies: documents from the National Coronial Information Service show they were the leading perpetrators of animal-related deaths between 2000 and 2010.