Are lions afraid of tigers?
A current report on two divers who were NOT eaten by sharks for 19 hours on the Australian Great Barrier Reef makes one thing clear above all: the gap between our subjective fear of some animals and the real risk that they pose is huge.
It is true that there are certainly more sharks in the water off the Australian coast than in some other waters. Compared to the North or Baltic Seas, surfers and swimmers naturally encounter predatory fish more often. But you have to put that in the right relation: worldwide there are up to 80 shark attacks on people every year, five to 15 of which are fatal.
The news that the two divers were not victims of sea snakes during the same period probably would not have made it into the international media. There are also numerous species of these highly poisonous animals on the Great Barrier Reef - and a total of four to five people die every year in Australia after snake bites. This means that the risk of falling victim to a snake in Australia is no less than that of being killed by a shark.
But the big predatory fish, especially the great white shark, have a very bad reputation. And there are probably three reasons for this. On the one hand, this fish looks really frightening with its cold eyes and huge teeth, sneaks silently up to the swimmer from below or causes panic with its clearly visible dorsal fin.
Second, of course, there is the film "Jaws".
Thirdly, there are reports that after the ship sank, sharks attacked the survivors. So drifted after the sinking of the American warship U.S.S. Indianapolis 1945 about 900 castaways in the Pacific. When rescue finally came after four days, 316 had survived who reported constant shark attacks.
And fourth, we now know that surfers in particular have similarities for some sharks with their actual prey - seals.
Bees more dangerous than sharks?
A certain fear of sharks is therefore justified - for certain people under certain conditions. But if you look at the frequency with which people fall prey to them, then the animals are not the killers that we like to see in them.
Indeed, the popular claim that more people die from bee stings than from sharks is true. However, you are doing the insects an injustice if you portray them as worse killers than the sea predators. Bees, wasps and hornets only sting when they feel threatened, and allergy sufferers are particularly at risk.
The amount of poison injected by bees is only sufficient after 100 stings to put a healthy person at risk. And the claim that three hornet stings kill one person and seven kill a horse is also wrong. Hornet venom is even less dangerous than bee venom. Only when the insects sting in the mouth and throat does the swelling endanger life. For allergy sufferers, on the other hand, there is a real danger. The number of fatalities in this risk group is in the hundreds worldwide every year.
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