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Jewish World Review
March 8, 2012/ 14 Adar, 5772
Really, no place is safe when you think about it
With tornadoes, blizzards and wildfires below and massive solar storms and killer asteroids overhead, people's attention is naturally focused on finding a safe location to live, one that is free of flesh-eating diseases and limb-lopping religious fanatics.
Inevitably, two places spring to mind -- New Zealand and Australia. The Christchurch earthquake last year that killed 186 people caused New Zealand to drop rather precipitously in the standings. Fantastic scenery is all well and good as long as it's not falling on your head.
That leaves Australia, but now questions have arisen about just how safe the Land Down Under is.
The dingo is Australia's wild dog, a subspecies of wolf, actually, that had been widely regarded as shy and harmless. In a celebrated case, when a mother told authorities that a dingo had carried off and killed her 9-year-old daughter, the authorities jailed the mother.
Increasingly, it has become clear: The dingo did it. In the past decade or so, reports The New York Times, "there have been a number of reported attacks, some disputed, and one unarguable fatality." In 2001, two dingoes killed a 9-year-old boy and injured his brother, and, as the article suggests, there may have been other attacks.
You don't want to live in fear of a creature that looks like your neighbor's dog.
As an Adelaide wildlife researcher pointed out to the Times, dingoes are great at "working well in groups, and independent problem-solving." The Times story adds that "they also understand humans in a way that wolves do not." So not only are the dingoes going to eat the occasional wayward urchin, they might also steal your car.
If the dingoes don't bother you, maybe the spiders will.
Rising floodwaters in Wagga Wagga -- did we mention that Australia has floods and towns with names like "Wagga Wagga"? -- filled the town with fleeing spiders that promptly covered everything -- trees, bushes, lawn furniture, fences -- with their webs. Photos in the Daily Mail make Wagga Wagga appear to be covered with snow, albeit snow laced with industrious spiders.
And then there are the giant toads. You did know about the giant toads, right?
In the 1930s, the country's sugar-cane farmers were fighting an infestation of beetles, so they imported 100 cane toads from Hawaii. Apparently, the Hawaiians managed to keep straight faces all the way to the docks, because the toads arrived in Australia and, like so many other non-native species brought to those shores, thrived.
The cane toads are not only ugly, they're big -- up to 4 pounds. The toads are also poisonous, enough so to kill a small child or animal and temporarily blind an adult. Being inedible as well as poisonous, they have no natural predators. As for the beetles, they simply flew out of the toads' reach. Both are still there in abundance.
In the 1890s, some Australian sportsmen imported some European rabbits for hunting. The rabbits bred like, well, rabbits and quickly became prolific and destructive. There are now an estimated 200 million rabbits. In 1907, the government built a 1,700-mile fence to keep the rabbits penned up in Western Australia, much the way we do to try to keep people in Mexico. It didn't work, either.
And let's not even get started on the great white sharks and the voracious freshwater crocodiles.
In trying to avoid hazards, you might as well stay where you are. If the killer asteroid is big enough, it won't matter, in any case. On the other hand, drinking beer with a crowd of amiable Aussies wouldn't be such a bad way to go.
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