Roos, Goannas and Magpies

Australia is home to lots of different creatures, many of which can be dangerous to humans. Here, I will focus on a selection of animals that are capable of inflicting wounds: kangaroos, goannas and magpies.

The tallest species of kangaroo is the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) and it stands at about 1.4 metres, however, when rearing up on its back legs and tail, it can be taller than 2 metres. Kangaroos frequently fight each other for mating rights and leadership status, but attacks on humans are not unheard of. When fighting, they rear up, and balance on their tail. They ‘hold onto’ their prey with sharp claws, and kick with their powerful back legs. One of the documented kangaroo to human attacks occurred in 1963. Lance Oliver, a stockman, was out one day, when his dog disturbed some eastern grey kangaroos (these may weigh in excess of 80kg). The mob of roos turned on the dog who retreated under Oliver’s horse. The leader of the kangaroo mob approached, swept Oliver off his horse, pinned him to the ground whilst the claws started ripping through Oliver’s thick clothing. They wrestled and rolled off a ridge, 40 metres down into a creek where Oliver thought he might drown. Luckily for Oliver, he found himself near a large boulder which he used to stun the roo so he could free himself. This roo was 2.35 metres from nose to tail which is very close to the record for the largest of that species. In general, roos do not seek attacks, but if provoked, by a dog or by trying to be petted for instance, they may get aggressive in which case they can be very dangerous.

Goannas are some of the largest lizards. Whilst they are not usually aggressive, if provoked, as with the kangaroos above, they may show anger. They main weapons of the goanna are its razor sharp claws, and its long strong tail. Some goannas have been measured to be up to 2.5 metres long, and the lace monitor goanna can weigh up to 25 kilograms. If they are disturbed, goannas will most likely try to find a tree to climb, and if they are panicking, they may mistake a human for a tree. If this happens, the clawing will cause scratches and gashes all over the body. The tail can whip around and is capable of knocking adults off their feet, therefore it is essential to remain wary of goannas even though they are not as overly aggressive as some other animals.

The kangaroos and goannas mentioned above, are not the kind of animal that you see every day, especially if you live in urban areas. However the magpie, can be found in much of Australia, especially in the built-up residential areas that are more densely populated. During spring, the magpie becomes very aggressive yet it is unclear exactly why this is. It is generally accepted that the magpies are simply defending their nest whilst rearing their young, however other sources suggest that often attacks on humans may be an act of revenge. The magpie method of attack is to approach from behind, dive-bomb and swoop down sometimes nipping you in the process, but more often the victim will just feel the beating of wings about their head. Cyclists are particularly at risk, and with the helmet, the magpie will turn at the last moment to try to take a piece out of the ear. If a magpie is swooping you, the best defence is to look at it. A magpie will not come too close if you are looking straight at it, therefore sometimes sunglasses are worn backwards to try to trick the magpie and avoid an attack. Magpie attacks can be very serious, for example in 1983 when Karen Hatchett had her eye ripped open when cycling to a friend’s place. This bird can inflict a lot of damage, and Australians need to be prepared for the springtime wave of attacks.

The Australian animals mentioned above are dangerous in that they are capable of inflicting serious wounds. To avoid an attack from a goanna or a kangaroo, leave it alone. Unfortunately, the magpie is likely to go for anyone it sees, but as they live for approximately fifteen years, and generally remain in the same territory for this time, you may start to learn where the really aggressive ones live, and choose a different route.

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