Box Jellyfish live in the island and coastal waters of Thailand and Malaysia, in fact, they exist throughout the Indo-Pacific region including Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia.
The name Box Jellyfish refers to around 20 or so Cnidarians in the Cubozoa class of which several are the most dangerous of all of the 1000s of species of jellyfish that exist in our oceans. The most dangerous is the species Chironex that is widely believed to be the most venomous animal on the planet. Another known killer is Irukandji. For all intents and purposes, the term Box Jellyfish refers specifically to the Chironex species.
In Australia the species Chironex fleckeri with its remarkably potent venom has been responsible for dozens of human deaths. The Chironex species that exist throughout South-East Asia have been photographed and captured but not formally identified though are cousins of the Australian Chironex and have also been associated with innumerable fatalities over the years.
Little is known about habitat, habits and seasons of Box Jellyfish in Thailand and Malaysia due to lack of research. Up until my son was stung the day before New Year’s Eve 2007, nothing was known about Box Jellyfish in the region, most denied their existance at all, many involved in the tourism industry scoffed at suggestions that there was a problem, Thai marine scientists were completely unaware of them in their own backyard.
In April 2008 a Swedish family on holiday were hit by a terrible tragedy when 11 year old Moa Bergman was stung by a Box Jellyfish at Koh Lanta and killed within a few minutes. At the time the ill-informed hospital where her body was taken assumed she died of an allergic reaction though this has since been proved incorrect with the death officially attributed to the venom of a Box Jellyfish.
With progress slowly being achieved, the word is getting out though surveillance is still basic and knowledge rudimentary. Authorities are aware of serious stings in the region that appear to occur with no pattern of consistency or in any one particular location.
It is important to note that the risk of being stung by a Box Jellyfish is not great. They are in the water though the ratio of stings per swimmer is incredibly low. The point is however that it does happen and when it happens the consequences are usually fatal.
Risk is everywhere of course and more so in countries such as Thailand and Malaysia than many. Weigh up the risk, learn about what to do to avoid being stung and how to help if you or someone else is stung. A little knowledge could save you and the life of a loved one or a forever grateful stranger.
In Thailand it is estimated that 10s of 1000s die on the roads every year from motorbike crashes, one reason why I don’t ride a motorbike in Thailand. Why take the risk? Flights to and in Thailand carry 10s of 1000s of passengers every year and every single one on every single flight will be made aware of the risk of a crash and instructed on what to do just in case. In the same way, enjoy swimming and snorkeling but learn about Box Jellyfish – you have more chance of being stung than from being in a plane crash.
This blog is designed to state the facts of the matter and provide relevant, factual information sourced from recognized Box Jellyfish experts. The aim is for regular updates to educate those interested in the topic and perhaps living in or intending to visit the region.