Australia's Venomous Snakes:
The Modern Myth or Are You A Man Or A Mouse?
by Brian Bush
Author's Note: When concerning reptiles, the terms poisonous and venomous require redefining.
Poison is toxic if inhaled or ingested. The only poisonous reptiles known in Australia are the Green Turtle and
the Hawksbill Turtle. More people have probably died on this earth as a result of consuming turtle flesh than
ever has been the case from snakebite in Australia. There are no reported deaths from turtle poisoning here
Venom is generally harmless if ingested but toxic when it comes in contact with the underlying tissue normally
protected by the skin. Venomous animals have to break the skin with body-spines, stings or teeth (includes fangs
in spiders and centipedes). The only venomous reptiles found in Australia are snakes.
For too long we have been telling the world, as well as each other, that Australia's snakes are the most
venomous. On what evidence do we make this assumption? Solely on their ability to kill mice! What a joke!
The basis for the following discussion and points of view are personal experience, comments heard and
questions asked during my time lecturing on venomous animals as well as a perusal of the relevant literature. I
might just mention here that I have never lectured to mice!
I have heard it said many times by people I believe should know better that this or that Australian snake is "more
deadly", "more toxic" or "more venomous" than the Indian Cobra (Naja naja). This is a misrepresentation of the
facts and gains little support from the evidence available concerning humans. These types of statements have no
place in education if positive results are the goal. All venomous snakes have the potential to be dangerous
because of the variable sensitivity between individual people to venoms. However, first a bite has to occur.
Australian snakes are inoffensive and very shy. They have had only forty thousand years of human predation to
contend with. None of their behav