Australia wants to shed its reputation of being full of deadly snakes

Australia wants to shed its reputation as a nation full of animals that will kill you.

In particular, snakes.

"If you look at the amount of people who actually die [in Australia] from snakes each year, it's practically nothing," Ruchira Somaweera, a scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), told AAP.

"The encounter rates are so low in comparison to other parts of the world."

A herpetologist is someone who studies amphibians and reptiles. Dr Somaweera says it's a myth that people are constantly getting bitten by venomous serpents.

And when they do, Australia's health system is more than good enough to save them.

"Factors such as the quality of antivenom, our paramedical services and knowledge of first aid is really good here in Australia, which contributes to the negligible number of human deaths."

There have been 25 documented deaths from snake bites in Australia this decade, which might not sound "negligible" to New Zealand ears - but it's only a fraction compared some parts of the world.

Coastal taipan - Australia's deadliest snake.
Coastal taipan - Australia's deadliest snake. Photo credit: Getty

Dr Somaweera says 10,000 die every year in India.

"In the neighbouring island of Sri Lanka, an estimated 80,000 people get bitten by snakes annually, of which about 400 lose their lives," he told AAP.

"It's clearly a massive issue and a real threat in other parts of the world, especially Asia, compared to Australia."

The myth, Dr Somaweera says, came from a study done years ago that found many Australian snakes have high levels of venom - but didn't look at snakes in other parts of the world.

The deadliest snake in the world by death count is believed to be the saw-scaled viper, which is responsible for around half of India's snake death toll.

But the deadliest snakes by mortality rate are the black mamba, from sub-Saharan Africa, and Australia's coastal taipan.

Dr Somaweera said the reputation it has for dangerous critters is "good fun" but just not true.



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