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Are You More Likely to Win the Lottery or Be Eaten by a Shark?
While most lottery players realise that the odds of winning the lottery are long (otherwise we’d all be millionaires!) it's notoriously difficult for us to quantify or visualise just what the chances of hitting the jackpot really are. Exampled abound of freak occurrences which are more likely to happen to us than winning the lottery grand prize. But is there any truth to these claims or are they just fabricated facts and figures? In this series of articles, What are the Odds, I'm going to take a peek at some of these claims and see how the numbers actually add up. So, without further ado let's get our feet wet with this old chestnut.
What Are the Odds? #1: You Are MORE Likely to Be Eaten by a Shark than Win the Lottery!
Our fear of sharks goes back a long way - sharks have hunted the oceans and seas far longer than we've been swimming or floating boats in them. In fact, sharks have been around for at least 420 million years, making these salty death merchants about twice as old as the oldest dinosaurs!
Selachophobia, or the fear of sharks, is a well-documented fear. In fact, one of the reasons we love clear blue waters so much may be due to the fact that they give us better visibility about what is swimming underneath us! Steven Spielberg played on this primeval fear to great effect in the blockbuster Jaws which left thousands of movie goers scared to go into the water after its release in 1975.
In actual fact, you have a much better chance, over 32x more, of winning the lottery than you have of becoming a feast for a fish.
According to an American Survey conducted in 2000 your chance of being killed by a shark are roughly 1 in 264 million. Whereas the odds of winning the Saturday Lotto jackpot at Lottoland are 1 in 8,145,060.
The International Shark Attack File states there were 3 fatal shark attacks last year, two in Australia and one in South Africa. On average the reported number of fatalities caused by shark attacks is about 4.2 people per year worldwide, although this number may be increasing as populations grow and countries develop better reporting practices.
In fact, if you're planning a holiday on the beach this summer you might have a lot more to worry about than sharks!
- Jellyfish stings kill about 40 people per year, far more than sharks did last year
- Stonefish kill about 110 people per year and are about 8x more likely to kill beach goers who are not careful where they step.
- The biggest danger to Australians at the beach remains drowning with 266 people drowning between July 2013 and June 2014.
As Australians we have this deep-ingrained fear of sharks, and rightly so. Of course that doesn't stop us from passing that along to the tourists in the form of shark jokes – as Aussies it's practically our duty! But all those pasty sunburned Poms you get on Bondi Beach are facing a far greater danger than shark bites. About 750 die in the UK each year from severe sunburn for not wearing sun cream. And, as we've seen time and time again, tourists from Europe who come to soak up some Aussie sun are often woefully unprepared to deal with its intensity.
Indeed, you do not even need to go to the seaside to statistically be in more danger than you are of being eaten by a shark – in 2000 statistics were published which stated that 341 Americans died slipping in the bath tub!
Blood in the Water
Sharks have been making lots of headlines in recent years following a series of deadly attacks and the resulting controversial culling policy in Western Australia. Oddly enough, there is some evidence that the increase in attacks could be partly due to the banning of whale hunting in 1979. Over the past 35 years whale populations have been replenishing and sharks follow in the wake of these great behemoths on their migration off the Western Australian coastline. In fact, some scientists believe that the effects of a large feast, such as off a whale carcass, may be an important to inducing mating. Until recently, there was about one fatal shark attack in Australia each year. However, after two men were killed by sharks in one week in 2013, and with several fatalities reported in recent years, the Western Australian government announced that it would begin hunting sharks to protect public safety.
Supporters of the cull, including Western Australian premier Colin Barnett, say that the hunt is justified to prevent further brutal attacks and loss of life, particularly as alternative preventative methods such as shark nets and helicopter patrols have not stopped incidents from occurring. Australian Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt stated that trapping and killing sharks was in the "national interest" of Australians.
In general, the scientific community has been outspoken against the cull. Similar culls off Hawaii in the 1960's were not found to be effective and, in fact, Australian shark attacks have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade. In particular, there is great concern that one of the targeted species is the great white shark, which is already considered endangered by the World Wildlife Foundation. This most famous and feared type of shark is thought to be extremely susceptible to population collapse due to its very low rate of reproduction. Some ecologists believe that culling a large number of great whites off Australia could negatively affect mating patterns and cause irreversible damage to worldwide populations.
The decision to cull sharks proved to be extremely controversial and divisive with the general public and environmental communities from around the world. Polls conducted by UMR research found that 78% of 500 surveyed Australians opposed the cull, feeling that more shark nets were a better solution. University of Florida marine researcher George Burgass has called the hunt an act of "revenge killings" and stated that "killing 10 sharks after a death is not the answer as it does not result in reduced attacks". The main method of culling, baited hooks, has also been criticized since it does not actually kill sharks dangerous to humans.
The WA government has since abandoned the policy, sort of; it still has been allowed to reserve the right to cull in extreme circumstances where there is an “imminent shark threat” – a phrase, admittedly, which can be considered open to interpretation.
So it looks as though the shark debate shows no sign of ending anytime soon. In the meantime marine biologist boffins in Australia and elsewhere are feverishly working to find new, more humane methods of safe-guarding both species so as to prevent such tragic loss of human life while also minimising the effect on both shark populations and the environment as a whole.
Surfers Split over Cull Policies
As the vast majority of the victims of shark attacks are surfers, the surfing community has unsurprisingly been split on the issue of culling. Some, like veteran Australian surfer Kevin Merifield, feel that the cull is necessary to protect the safety of surfers and other water sportsmen, stating that any local surfers know that great white sharks are far more common than they have been in the past and that they now pose a serious danger. Others, like eleven-time ASP surfing champion and Baywatch star Kelly Slater, have been outspoken advocates against the shark cull.
We hear about large lottery wins each and every week. Whereas when a fatal shark attack occurs we, as a nation, are shocked.
Despite our primal fears of a savage shark attack, and with the utmost respect to the victims of such attacks and their loved ones, statistically speaking your chances of being fatally killed due to an unprovoked shark attack are quite low indeed.
You are over 32x more likely to win the lottery than be eaten by a shark so this is a Lotto Legend. Fact.