Tourism Australia are going to shit when they read this. But it’s not that I want to discourage our Asians neighbours from spending all three days of their annual leave here, or that I don’t welcome our European cousins despite their maudlin tales of economic woe and devalued currencies, no; it’s just this sense of civic duty I have which impels me to warn international visitors that they’re coming to a country where everything wants to, you know, kill and eat them.
Fun fact, contrary to popular opinion, the word ‘australia‘ is actually an ancient Aboriginal term for ‘land of many deaths’. Why? Maybe because 40,000 years ago when the first Aboriginals came here, the infamous thylacoleo carnifex (aka. the marsupial lion, the real ‘dropbear’) was a minor pest compared with all the other man-eating megafauna rampaging across the continent. When I say ‘minor pest’ what I actually mean is an apex predator the size of large lion, that could stand on its hind quarters and climb trees where it functioned superbly as an ambush predator, with humongous carnassian premolars that gave it the most powerful bite of any mammal living or extinct, and which endowed it with a unique bite designed to — and here I shit you not — decapitate it’s prey with a single bite.
They put a ‘dreamtime’ gloze over it now, but Oz in 40K BC was more living nightmare than sylvan idyll, with gigantic carnivorous kangaroos that hunted the Pliocene woodlands in packs, 10′ meat-eating birds called the ‘Demon Duck of Doom’ (Bullockornis planei), lizards 18′ long with rows of viperous fangs that remain the largest venomous creatures of all time (Megalania), and a python that was at least 30′ long that lived in the fuc*ing trees, for god’s sake. Pity the poor Aboriginals who, upon seeing all this nasty bitey shit, though ‘Piss this off for a joke, bro! This place is a fuc*ing deathtrap, ay!’ and turned around, only to find the landbridge to Asia under three hundred metres of water infested with, you guessed it, toothsome prehistoric sharks (Megalodon) the size of locomotives. So, welcome to the land downunder!
Fast forward 400 centuries, and the only megafauna we see in Oz now are fat white people herding in the food-courts of our vast urban shopping centres for a Middle Earthian second breakfast. The hungry beasties that used to chase young Aboriginal men and women through the riparian wilderness are all long gone, and you might think the average chubby Aussie now basks in relative safety. And we do, but we’re not silly, either. We all sleep with one eye open, and subconsciously shake out our footwear before putting anything on. And we trust nothing, not even this little bloke:
While we’re as much in danger of death by arterial clogging as any American, we’re much more likely to be killed and eaten by our fauna, and the unpublicised fact remains that Australia, land of many deaths, remember, is the number one spot in the world to visit if you want to die of natural causes (if being bitten, stung or scratched to death = natural). So if you want to get shot in the street by some fuc*ed up teenager with a handgun, go to São Paulo. Want to become pink mist at the hands of a Russian airstrike? Work for an international aid agency in the streets of Aleppo. Come to Australia, though, and we’ll let our wildlife do the dirty work. The girl in the picture below? Never seen again.
I’m not here to remind you people that we have more world-class deadly snakes than anywhere else on Earth. Our poisonous snakes are so famously killy that people forget about the pythons we have here in plague proportions which grow to 8.5 metres or more (28′) in length and can swallow an adult. Forget about our spiders, like the common Sydney Funnelweb spider will bite through a steel-capped boot and kill you on the spot, or that our water buffalo are cantankerous bastards who’ll gore you without warning, or that the male red kangaroos, like our grumpy cassowaries, will disembowel you with one kick, as this idiot is about to find out.
Likewise, you all know to cover up and avoid the deadly diseases borne by our ticks and mosquitos, or the friendly fatal jabs of our blue-ringed octopi, cone snails and box jellies, the most dangerous animal on earth, btw, with a sting so painful it stops your heart. Sure, go for a swim, idiot, and enjoy the bull, tiger and great white sharks that seethe along our coastlines. Think you’re playing it smart by sticking to freshwater? Our billabongs are full of estuarine crocodiles so big they hunt great white sharks for fun, and which will wait patiently for you step too close. Every couple of days someone disappears off a surfboard or gets yanked out of his fishing boat, and us Aussies don’t bat an eyelid. That’s just life (and death) in the Great Southern Land.
Instead, I’m here to alert our international visitors to a new and heretofore unheralded menace. One which can kill or maim you if unlucky, and it’s waiting for you the moment you step off the aircraft. I have unsuccessfully battled this creature every spring since childhood, and bear scars both physical and psychological as a result. Unlike the angry ‘roos, lurking crocs and patrolling sharks, all Australians fear this savage beast, which hunts and harries us from the moment we step outside our homes. Nobody is safe. They could be (and are) anywhere. So, let me introduce you to the infamous Australian magpie.
Death from above, that’s what they are. These black and white winged devils live for 25 years, are highly intelligent, remember faces, bear grudges, target the eyes, are stealth attackers, and are utterly relentless in their territoriality. There’s little we can do. Forget retaliation, it only makes them more vicious. Forget gluing eyes to the back of your helmet, they know the difference and scorn your clumsy attempts. Forget waving a stick above your head, it just aggravates them. Forget full faced helmets, they just go for your neck and shoulders instead. Don’t bother with the zip ties or pipe cleaners, that just makes them laugh (before they attack you). The only defence is to avoid them altogether. But you don’t know where the next one is UNTIL IT ATTACKS YOU, so that method is fraught. Our plight has become so desperate we have a dedicated magpie attack website. Our terror has even been featured in the NY Times.
Now, you may think, come on dude, it’s just a bird. Well, smartass, this is a bird that thinks its an attack-dog on steroids. Literally. During attack season the male magpie is flooded with 480% more testosterone than normal. It turns them into deranged aerial killers. They come at you like they’ve been fired from a crossbow straight at your head. The magpie is proof that dinosaurs evolved into nasty, nasty birds. What makes the universally feared is that they will always attack. Full stop. Getting taken by a croc is a numbers game, roll the dice to get eaten by a shark; but a magpie will attack you 100% of the time. They are scary motherfuc*ers with a thirst for human blood. Look at this poor bloke; he’s dead now.
Thank me later, but if you have plans on visiting us downunder, maybe cancel them until the wave of terror is over. December, hopefully. Until then, if you can’t change flights, at least come prepared — by which I mean, make sure you get medical insurance, because nothing can save you from the magpie. You will be attacked, you may be injured, permanently scarred or even blinded. I’m sorry to be the bearer of ill tidings, but if you thought you had all the perils of Australia covered because you read the red section at the back of the guidebook entitled ‘Things in Australia that want to kill you’ please think again. Forewarned is forearmed. The Australian magpie, silent assassin of the skies.