Most people know of Steve Irwin as the Crocodile Hunter—the somewhat zany, highly animated environmentalist from Australia. His television show, The Crocodile Hunter is a perennial favorite among both children and parents.
While filming a new special on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Irwin, age 44, was apparently struck in the chest by a stingray (the local news stated that the stingray’s barb entered Irwin’s heart, but that is not confirmed in AP’s account). Irwin’s body was transported by ambulance and then helicopter, but nothing could be done to save him.
Irwin travelled the globe seeking mysterious and rare creatures, along with dangerous and scary ones. He didn’t do it to mount these unique animals’ heads on his walls (in fact, he told the Australian television program A Current Affair that “killing one of our beautiful animals in the name of trophy hunting will have a very negative impact on tourism, which scares the living daylights out of me.”). He did it to entertain and educate the world about the wonder of animals great and small.
He was not a man without controversy, either. He received admonishments for carrying his, then, one-year old son into an alligator pen under one arm while feeding the gator raw meat with the other. He was also accused of disturbing penguins, a seal, and humpback whales by coming too close while making a documentary in Antarctica.
Despite these events, his love for animals was very obvious. I remember watching him as a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno several times, often sticking around to watch just because Irwin was the guest. Despite appearing as though he’d had one too many espressos, he was always charming, funny, and extremely concerned with the well-being of the animals he brought on to the show. I will miss seeing his cheerful face and hearing his famous expression, “Crikey!”
My sense of loss and that of his fans is very slight, indeed, compared to that of his American wife Terri, from Oregon, and their daughter Bindi Sue, 8, and son Bob, who will turn 3 in December. After seeing their husband/father face death so many times, I doubt that will have numbed them to the pain they will be feeling. My sympathies and prayers go out to them, and also to the animals who have lost a friend and protector.
[Sources: KCRA TV, Yahoo AP News, and MSNBC]