CROCODILES have always enjoyed a healthy respect in the Northern Territory but high season has just begun for an even deadlier creature: the box jellyfish.
Tuesday marks the beginning of the three-month build-up to the wet season in the state’s Top End, and warmer water temperatures will prompt stingers to drift within range of the shore.
Box jellyfish can be found in the water around northern Australia at any time of year, but are at peak numbers between now and the end of May.
Acting Minister for Health Peter Styles is urging people to be careful.
“The humidity is increasing and the warmer sea waters will see stingers start to populate our coastal waters,” Mr Styles said in a statement.
Warnings are issued annually but large numbers of tourists and people new to the area might not be aware of the danger the jellyfish pose, he said.
About 40 people in the Top End each year seek medical treatment for stings.
Mr Styles said people launching boats and other water craft should be particularly vigilant, with the creatures preferring shallow water.
“Box jellyfish prefer calm conditions, so are often at the water’s edge, as well as in tidal creeks and around boat ramps,” he said.
“Young children are the most at risk of a severe injury, or even death, and should be kept out of the water at all times.
“Even paddling at the water’s edge is not safe for them.”
An adult box jellyfish can have 40 or more tentacles, each up to two metres in length and loaded with venom that causes excruciating pain.
Those toxins can stop heart and respiratory functions in less than three minutes.
If there’s no way to avoid getting in the water, swimmers are advised to cover up with a stinger suit or a shirt and long trousers – but not too loose, as jellyfish can become trapped between the material and the skin.