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Forgive me for getting into a flap, but why are we so keen to protect things that kill us?

Opinion

From swooping magpies to biting dingoes and mauling sharks, it seems the bigger threat animals pose to humans, the more we argue for leaving them alone. It just doesn’t make sense, writes Madonna King

Print article

While we are talking about the Lions and Broncos and Magpies and Panthers, it’s timely to chat about those animals not running onto the field this weekend.

And the swooping magpie heads my list. On a drive between Brisbane’s CBD and Norman Park one day this week, anyone could have witnessed three separate attacks by a bird whose natural habitat is not inner-city Brisbane.

One was a young woman, walking along Wynnum Road in high shoes and a work suit. She was perhaps in her early 20s, using her handbag to fight off a magpie that was hell-bent on attacking her.

Eventually she ran across four lanes, dodging traffic, to dodge a magpie.

Just off Wynnum Road, near the Morningside train station, another magpie targeted an elderly gent walking along the footpath. He cowered, covering his ears, before someone stopped to help.

In my own street, walkers are immune; our resident assailant only has cyclists in his sights. And he is ruthless.

This week, it was a friend who dropped over for coffee – and left with a tear to his ear. Each morning, it is young children riding to school, crossing the middle line, desperate to escape an attack.

It’s hard to watch. And downright dangerous. And our politicians – warned after the death of a baby at Holland Park West a couple of years ago and numerous damaged eyes and ears – should be on notice if tragedy strikes again.

What advice are we given? Don’t try and outrun it. Don’t antagonise it. Respect it. Allow it space. Do not look suspicious. Be “one with the birds’’, experts say.

Good God. Antagonise it by living in your own home? Respecting what? The way it swoops? What space? Not look suspicious? I’m not sure even how to answer that advice.

We need to have a conversation about magpies in inner city suburbs, just as we need a conversation around dingoes and sharks, crocodiles and box jellyfish, snakes and even dogs.

Just on dogs. If you have a dog, you are an owner, not a parent to the aforementioned bundle of fluff. An owner. Not a parent.

Owners, not parents, dressing their dogs in hats and pyjamas, carrying them on walks or pushing them in strollers, and speaking to them in baby-talk is a column for another day.

And it’s not dangerous, like magpies swooping at children who are simply riding their bike to school.

A school zone is not their natural environment, and we should be able to go about our day without encountering risks from animals in spaces meant for us.

Like suburban streets. Or marketed tourist destinations. Or even beaches.

What do those advocating for the removal of shark nets on popular Queensland beaches say when a surfer or a swimmer is taken?

Do sharks own every bit of the ocean, or is it possible that humans are allowed a small slice to exercise and swim and holiday?

The same goes for dingoes, which should be allowed to thrive in their natural habitat. So why are we marketing K’gari to the world, and then telling visitors they cannot swim, run, jog, camp, gather on the beach, or be by themselves?

Why don’t we tell the truth. A pack of wild animals, called dingoes, have lost their fear of humans and are mauling tourists who visit.

This issue is not going to disappear. One huge crocodile was spotted at Airlie Beach – close to the foreshore – these school holidays, and their migration continues to head south with several sightings hundreds of kilometres south – in Yeppoon.

At what point do we believe they are ‘outside’ their natural habitat?

The same goes for the deadly Irukandji jellyfish, which experts say will continue to spread further down Queensland’s east coast, as temperatures warm.

Once upon a time, its natural habitat was north of the Whitsundays; the southernmost sting is now on the Sunshine Coast, with stings also recorded at Fraser Island.

What happens when its population is such that swimming at Noosa Heads becomes a real risk? How might that change property prices and holiday plans?

Our reverence to animals, outside of their natural habitat, is trumping our care of human beings, living there.

A Gold Coast man last week was fined more than $2000 – a bigger penalty than you might get for endangering someone’s life in a car – for taking his pet snake out in public.

Why? Wildlife officers believe native pets in public can become unnecessarily stressed.

So can human beings, forced to navigate huge swooping magpies dicing with their lives on big city streets.

If only we had confidence our politicians would take this on in the same way the Lions will take the Magpies off the field on Saturday.

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