Deadly Box Jellyfish in Langkawi Captured Alive!

Chironex sp. Langkawi, Malaysia      Copyright Tina Marinis 2010

Denying that a problem exists is made easy when the facts are suppressed as they were at Langkawi, Malaysia in late January 2010 when 45 year old Swede Karina Lofgren was killed by the sting of a box jellyfish. That denial is a shameful beaurocratic act and an insult to Mrs Lofgren's memory, her husband and family.

A history of denial and concealment is one thing, but photographic evidence is another. While Malaysian authorities - namely public health, tourism, etc - clearly have the upper hand in this department and are completely unwilling to share any information; these photographs emphatically demonstrate that lethal box jellyfish live in Langkawi waters. So it stands to reason that if they exist in Langkawi then they sting in Lankgawi (as jellyfish are want to do) and, yes it might sound catagorically out of left field but hell, these strange old box jellyfish just might even kill people!

No tampering, no doctoring, no photoshop, no camouflaging, no smoke screens, no delete buttons. These illuminating photographs courtesy of Tina Marinis are probably the first of their kind that perfectly identify a few of the lethal species of box jellyfish that live in Langkawi. Technology is such that exact dates and location can be confirmed so without further ado meet one of Langkawi's Chironex type box jellyfish, they of the killing people variety in tropical Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific:

This great image above clearly shows the characteristics of the Chironex species and Tina Marinis captured this photograph 12th May, 2010 around 9pm at Telaga Harbour. The jellyfish was estimated to be about 60cm long.

Irukandji Malo sp. Langkawi, Malaysia    Copyright Tina Marinis 2010

This tiny creature with its transparent bell and four trailing tentacles is an Irukandji, specifically a Malo species which is also found in Australia and causes all sorts of problems in that country. This Irukandji was first identified in 1999 in Australia and named after American tourist Robert King who was killed by this animal in 2002. The photo was taken at 9.30pm on 15th May, 2010 at Rebak and Tina Marinis described it as having a 30mm bell and 200mm tentacles. Malo sp. is known to cause severe Irukandji Syndrome.
There have been numerous cases of suspected Irukandji Syndrome in Langkawi this year the most recent being 26th June where at least 3 people reported being stung and were hospitalized with typical symptoms.

So, we have victims (fatalities and serious stings), we have personal and eye-witness accounts and we now have photographs. What's missing? An admission from authorities that they are wrong, that they will immediately do what they can to protect the millions of visitors unsuspectingly left exposed in the water, that they will raise awareness at all levels (from the beach to the Ministry), that they will implement strategies of prevention and treatment, and that they will watch this video and subject themselves to a sting like these researchers so as to better understand how their guests to Langkawi will feel if stung!

Irukandji Syndrome video:

Chironex sp. Langkawi, Malaysia Tina Marinis 2010

Thank-you to Tina Marinis for the use of these photographs!


  1. It seems that it is quite dangerous if we swim/ snokeling / diving in the sea .

  2. No it is not dangerous unless you happen to get stung by a box jellyfish. This is reasonably rare. The odds of being stung are low. All I'm pointing out is that these lethal and dangerous jellyfish live at Langkawi. Many deny that this is so. We have proof now and they have the potential to kill, they have killed. There are of course plenty of dangers everywhere and risks everywhere - once you know the facts you can then make an informed decision as to whether you want to take that risk. If you do you can take certain precautions to minimize the risk - with jellyfish it is wearing a lycra suit. It's up to you - at least now you know. If you are stung which is extremely unlikely you can read this blog and find out what treatment works best. If I hadn't pointed any of this out you could get stung and be in all sorts of serious trouble. There are some typical places where I definitely would not swim even in a suit but there are many which are probably quite safe. No-one knows because no research is being done. In Australia and now in Thailand research shows where the danger spots are. The Malaysians will find that tourists feel safer when they have knowledge.

  3. My daughter, Anna, was 30 cm from swimming face to face into at box jellyfish on Paradise Beach, Koh Wai 1st march 2010. Anna called me over to look at "this amazing thing", which I fortunately recognized at once as a box jelly. We were 4 people who had a really close look with face masks on for about 5 minutes, and after checking facts and pictures endlessly on the internet, we are all 100 % sure it was the Chironex Fleckeri variety. It was in about 90 cm of water and about 5 meters from the beach in the early afternoon close to full moon.

    I contacted the Danish Embassy, who said they would send the information to the relevant places. We also wrote a long article for the main Danish newspaper, who grabbed the idea, but rewrote the article completely, totally removing all reference to box jellyfish and focusing instead on other tropical water dangers such as angel fish, squid, snakes etc. We also contacted the local diving centre, which we had learned to dive at.

    All together very frustrating experience, as we all feel that there is a more or less focused attempt to ignore the facts. - Great therefore, that you started this blog. Please send this information to the relevant people.

    John Row, psychologist and ex prof. photographer, Denmark

  4. Hi BlogBoxie;
    Would you like to come down to Langkawi this Sunday 25th July in the event of "cleaning up" jellyfishes in Cenang beach?

    You can be a great help in the identification.

    May i know how those pictures where photographed?

  5. Thanks WChinner for the invitation. Unfortunately not possible. But want a fantastic initiative and I applaud the organisers for being proactive. One question, how? How do you 'clean up' jellyfish WChinner? Undoubtedly every person in the water who I assume will be netting must wear a protective lycra suit and of course you will have a generous supply of vinegar on the sand at Cenang Beach in case of an emergency. Take photographs and forward to your local marine biology unit - I believe there is one at Penang. Good luck with this endeavour!!
    The photos on this blog where taken with a normal digital camera with a hand held spotlight in the water - like moths jellyfish are attracted to light.

  6. Hi Blogboxie;
    Read my update on today's operation:

    You may use the information, if you wish.

    We just want the world to know that the authorities are doing something about this. Also, many thanks to bloggers like you that helped to "pressure" these people to act on it.

  7. Great to see some positive action at Langkawi and really encouraging to see so many people from such diverse areas. This form of collection is quite ineffective when it comes to box jellyfish. They are swimmers not floaters. There special nets and techniques employed in their collection. You did get one by looks of things. The bell is clearly box shaped and transparent but it is difficult to tell from the photos what species it is. The spots on the bell (unless that is the camera or a reflection) plus the colour of the tentacles suggest large carybdeid or Irukandji but hard to tell. What is it with the boss and his banana?? Anyway, apparently in Indonesia they think crab meat and chilli a is good box jellyfish remedy?! Many locals use the morning glory vine but this is just a mild pain killer. Vinegar is the only thing. A great initiative though that hopefully leads to more effective sampling/netting and doesn't provide the boss and authorities with 'proof' that box jellyfish are not a problem. Thanks!

  8. Hi Wchinner, the photographs you see were taken off the back of our boat at Telaga Harbour, when they were attracted to our underwater lights.

    I also have some up close photos of the jellyfish up close, as I captured it and photographed it in a casserole dish, to be precise. Any further questions, just ask....

  9. Here's the photo:

  10. Thanks WChinner for the link and pics - most definitely box jellyfish and multi-tentacled chirodropid, most likely Chironex - the seriously lethal species.

  11. Finally. I have been looking for evidence that the Irukandji Jellyfish exists in Langkawi for quite some time now and finally I found it. I got stung by a jellyfish in Langkawi in November 2010. It was the worst three days of my life. I thought that the Irukandji only existed in Australia but to finally find proof that it exists in Langkawi is like dropping of a big rock of of my shoulders.

    Thank you. Now I at least know what made me suffer the most imaginable pain ever. Special thanks to Tina Marinis.

    I almost feel like crying. It's kind of riddiculus but this artikle or post or whatever really helped me.


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