Recently there have been a number of shark sightings off the northern NSW coast. Apparently packs of the suckers are moving north, following large schools of pilchards and nibbling at surfer's toes and bums as an appetiser. Summer is a dangerous time in Australia. We locals are used to the perils of the wild and the ravages of the sun but the unsuspecting traveller often mistakes the shark alarm for an ice cream van, doesn't know his Taipan from his trouser snake and has absolutely no idea about the danger of drop bears.
Whilst apart from a nasty scratch and the propensity to wee all over your Armani, Koala's are relatively harmless, very secretive and well disguised in the foliage of Australian Eucalypts. A variation on the Koala is the colloquially named "Drop Bear". Drop bears are similar to Koalas. They live in trees, dropping to the ground only when it is necessary to feed. It comes as little surprise that such a strange animal exists amongs the other unique fauna in Australia such as Echidnas, wombats, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, platypus, bandicoots and potoroos. The Common Drop Bear is found in forested areas across the continent and is thought to in fact venture as far north as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
Whilst Drop Bear's are arboreal they are able to walk on two legs, but are much faster on all four, being capable of bursts of speed approaching 60 km/h over short distances.. They posess enlarged canine teeth and upper incisors but unlike their Koala cousins are carnivorous marsupials. They can grow up to a metre and a half in height in the right habitat. Unlike the slow moving, energy conserving Koala, they are extremely strong and due to their largely carniverous diet, far more active.
Because tourism is a booming industry in Austarlia, little is published on the Drop Bear for fear it would deter internationals from visiting and specifically taking advantage of our national parks and coastal hinterlands. German and Swedish tourists, Australian naturalists and vegetarians are particularly fond of hiking in the Australian bush and provide a welcome injecton of tourist dollars to the economy.
There are however, incidences of Drop Bear involvement in various attacks from the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain, to the disappearance of a group of cross-country skiers in the Victorian Alps, and the deaths of a number of hikers, canoeists, 4WDrivers, campers, sunbathers on the Northern NSW and Gold Coast hinterlands.
These 'accidents' are often reported as crocodile attacks, falls from cliffs, exposure, and in the Chamberlain case, dingos were blamed to dispel rumours of Drop Bear attacks and hide the truth from the public.And the notorious disappearance of Peter Falconio . . his fiance Joanne Lees inventing a tale of abduction rather than face the ridicule she might receive had she told the truth about a central Australian Drop Bear attack.
Their hunting technique is simple and effective. They drop from their arboreal nest and wrap themselves around the body of their unsuspecting prey using asphyxiation as the most efficient method of rendering their subject lifeless.
If seen, Drop Bears should NOT be approached, as they are easily frightened and likely to attack.. Food should not be left in vehicles as they may attempt to retrieve it and camping in Drop Bear areas is not recommended.
There, you've been warned: