phascolarctos malum or Thylarctos plummetus, depending on what area they are from.
According to Wikipedia (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_bear) “A dropbear or drop bear is a fictitious Australian marsupial. Drop bears are commonly said to be unusually large, vicious, carnivorous marsupials related to koalas (although the koala is not a bear) that inhabit treetops and attack their prey by dropping onto their heads from above. They are an example of local lore intended to frighten and confuse outsiders and amuse locals, similar to the jackalope, hoop snake, wild haggis or snipe.
Various methods suggested to deter drop bear attacks include placing forks in the hair, having Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears or in the armpits, urinating on oneself, and only speaking English in an Australian accent.”
I have never really looked into the lore behind our local super marsupial…the drop bear. However, this morning – it being Australia Day here – I jokingly made a reference to them in a Facebook post, saying to be careful, as I had seen them heading into the bush with a slab (carton of beer). Then my writer instinct kicked in, and I wondered just how had this mythology around the drop bear started, and just how ingrained into our iconology had it become.
Us Aussies find the whole tourist scare “campaign” about drop bears hilarious. I have a friend – an Australian – who lives in NYC and has a lot of American friends. He gets great delight out of scaring them to death, relating stories about the dangers of drop bears if touristing here, backed up with comments from us over here. I tend to wonder about the gullibility of people.
The wonderful thing about the drop bear myth is how it has come to be backed up with some pretty credible research from believable organisations and publications. It would seem that everyone wants to be in on the joke. This from the Australian Museum:
If ever there was an institution to give legitimacy to a subject, anything with the word “museum” in it would be right up there. Also, some “serious” research work from the “Australian Geographic”:
The research, done in a NSW drop bear Hot-Spot, has found that talking with an Australian accent helps keep them at bay.
Needless to say, spoof sights for drop bears have cropped up as well, and one has to wonder just how many overseas tourists have clicked on this link and booked a Drop Bear Adventure. Too funny.
And this from Buzzfeed:
There are also three apps to play games of Drop Bear.
Drop Bears are a great example not only of the often perverse Australian sense of humour, but is one of our endearing qualities…not taking ourselves too seriously, and liking to laugh at ourselves.
This link has someone even creating a history for them:
But perhaps more than anything is the proliferation of photos and graphics that depict drop bears. You can never say Australians don’t have a sense of humour!