Australia has more venomous snakes than any other country in the world. It also has the unenviable distinction of being home to no fewer than 9 of the top 10 most venomous snakes in the world. Interestingly, it is the only continent with a higher proportion of venomous snakes to non-venomous ones: out of a total of nearly 170 species (including more than 30 sea snakes) around 120 of them are venomous. Some 20 - 25 of these are considered to be highly dangerous to people, the commonest cause of serious snakebite being the tiger snake (Notechis scutatus).
Even though few parts
of Australia are entirely free of dangerous snakes - and an estimated
3,000 Australians are bitten by venomous snakes every year - deaths due
to snakebite are relatively uncommon. Fatalities have dropped dramatically
since the beginning of the century as anti-venoms have become more readily
available: every year 200 - 500 of the snakebite victims require treatment
with anti-venoms without which their chances of survival would have been
limited. Between 1981 and 1991 only 18 deaths from snakebite were reported
to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, Melbourne; four of these were people
bitten after picking the snakes up or playing with them.