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Have we lost our perspective, marbles, interest or morals?

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brachiosteve

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Some places are dangerous to live. Australia has 100 venomous snakes, plus dangerous spiders, cone snails, blue ringed octopus, jellyfish, sharks, crocodiles, sting rays, stonefish, scorpions and centipedes, many of which can be life threatening. It’s even got a venomous mammal that is dangerous (and the female lays eggs and the male has multiple penis heads).

So you’d expect a pretty high human body count… right?

Before proceeding, consider this. Just ONE snake species, in ONE other country, kills 10,000 people per YEAR.

Well in the DECADE between 2000 and 2010, there were 254 people killed by animals in Australia. That’s like, 25 people per year (where most of the top 20 most venomous snakes live).

But if we break that down, it is even more surprising:

·        77 were from horses and ponies (mainly riding or on the roads).

·        33 were from cows, cattle, bulls, bovine (16 in traffic accidents, the rest by piercing, crushing or other).

·        27 were from dogs (mostly in attacks and mostly on children or the elderly).

·        18 were by kangaroos, (mostly on roads, causing accidents).

·        16 were by bees.

·        16 were by sharks (Steve Irwin was one victim).

·        14 were by snakes. (And the world’s most venomous snake hasn’t killed anyone!).

·        9 were by crocodiles

·        5 were by emus (all in vehicle accidents)

·        39 (combined) for fish, sheep, goats, camels, cats and jellyfish.

·        There were none by octopus, platypus, spiders, scorpions or centipedes.

Almost three-quarters of victims were male and most of the deaths occurred either on public roads, in the home and on farms.

Call it luck, good medicines and accessibility, good education/awareness, money, personal/national wealth or whatever, but other well developed countries share these (Australian kind of) statistics. Like Europe and the USA. We are talking handfuls of deaths. Go to the poor, less developed parts of the world, in Africa, the Americas and Asia, and it is terrible, with SE Asia and Sub Saharan Africa being the worst. People dying there aren’t in handfuls, but hundreds of thousands per year. Each human being is precious and mourned, painfully, just as you would mourn.

This is a preventable epidemic. In Britain, if one person dies by an animal, it is front page news. In India, dozens die daily, but in rural villages, far from prying eyes or national/international interest, where many people are significantly less valued than others. That’s a crisis, and an unfair distribution of wealth and help and focus. This is too far down our list of priorities, surely. But our planet’s future may trump this, but let’s do both, and more.

As the Phylogeny Explorer Project develops over time, there will be so much we can do with it from so many angles. With species genomes, geographical distribution, species counts, mapping new and extinct species, knowing which ones are venomous or at risk etc.  But, like the world needs to assess its priorities, so must the project and focus on the primary, academic tasks in hand. Tree building.

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Guest Nicholas Boccio

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This was very thought provoking... I read up on many of the venomous creatures before a work trip to Australia, and while I do not regret that - this really helps me put things into proper perspective. As usual, I am more likely to die in my taxi ride from the airport, than anything else. :)

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