Crocodile hunter was victim of 'voyeuristic wildlife TV'
4th September 2006
Crocodile hunter: Aussie Steve Irwin pictured with his wife and sidekick Terri.
Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin - killed by a stingray barb through the chest - was a victim of 'voyeuristic wildlife TV', fellow experts said today.
As tributes poured in for the quirky 44-year-old. British survival expert Ray Mears said his death was a "sobering lesson".
Tribute: British survival expert Ray Mears
Mears said the Australian's death was a tragedy and his heart went out to his family.
But he added that it proved "some things in nature should be left alone".
He said: "He clearly took a lot of risks and television encouraged him to do that.
"It's a shame that television audiences need that to be attracted to wildlife.
"Dangerous animals, you leave them alone because they will defend themselves. Nature defends itself, it isn't all about hugging animals and going 'ahh'.
"It's wonderful to observe but you have to be sensible and maintain a safe distance."
Mears warned of the "gladiatorial" television of today and labelled some wildlife shows "voyeuristic".
He continued: "Television has become very gladiatorial and it's not healthy.
"The voyeurism we are seeing on television has a cost and it's that cost Steve Irwin's family are paying today."
David Bellamy called him "one of the great showmen and conservationists" and wildlife expert Mark O'Shea said it would leave an "immense hole" in the worlds of conservation and television.
Irwin, 44, was filming an underwater sequence for a television series called Ocean's Deadliest on the remote Batt Reef off the north-east coast of Australia when he was killed by a stingray barb.
Crew members aboard Irwin's boat, Croc One, called emergency services in the nearest city, Cairns, and administered cardio pulmonary resuscitation techniques as they rushed the boat to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter.
Medical staff pronounced Irwin dead at about noon local time (3am BST), the statement said. Friends say they believe he died instantly.
Those with Irwin said he was swimming in shallow water, snorkelling as his cameraman filmed large bull rays.
Irwin's death was only the third known stingray death in Australian waters, said shark and stingray expert Victoria Brims.
Wildlife experts said the normally passive creatures only sting in defence, striking with a bayonet-like barb when they feel threatened or are trodden on.
Irwin's body was flown to a morgue in Cairns, where stunned family and friends were gathering.
His American-born wife, Terri, was told of her husband's death while on a walking tour in Tasmania, and returned to the Sunshine Coast with her two children, eight-year-old daughter Bindi Sue and son Bob, who will be three in December.
Dr Bellamy called Irwin one of the "world's great conservationists and showmen" and admitted he cried on hearing the news this morning.
He said: "He was magic and for the world of conservation and natural history to lose him is very, very sad.
"Everyone said he imitated me but if I could be as good as him I would be very proud.
"I used to be castigated by people saying I was a showman because I made jokes but what good is it preaching to the converted?"
He continued: "The thing with Steve was he mixed damn good science with showbusiness and I don't know anyone else who did that.
"I'm quite sure all the crocs in Australia are smiling, not crocodile tears, because he made them famous.
"When I heard this morning I cried, the world really has lost a very, very important natural historian."
British zoologist O'Shea said Irwin's death would leave an "immense hole" in the worlds of conservation and television.
O'Shea, who has himself presented television programmes about dangerous reptiles, said Irwin had helped "pave the way" for other people working in the field.
He said: "Although we had different styles of working and I did not know him personally, I am actually completely shocked.
"It is going to leave an immense hole. What he has done for conservation in Australia is massive."
He said that although some "university professors" might have turned their noses up at the way presenters like Irwin portrayed reptiles, he had probably inspired many people to follow a future in conservation.
"A lot of people who now want to study biology and work with animals may not have considered it before they watched him on television," he said.
Steve Irwin, the quirky Australian naturalist who won worldwide acclaim, died doing what he loved best - bringing the wonders of nature to the masses.
Irwin seemed free of fear when it came to getting close to some of the world's deadliest creatures. While his first love was crocs, he also got up close and personal with snakes...
...and deadly spiders...
...and Sumatra tiger cubs.
Irwin also courted controversy. In 2004, he was widely condemned for feeding a snapping crocodile at his zoo while holding his then one-month-old baby son.
At a press conference, he apologised but stressed that he was a professional and at no point would he have put his child in danger.
He was popular across the globe - maybe not so with US chat show host Jay Leno however, when Irwin brought a guest of his own.
His foray into all things deadly beneath the sea was the subject of his latest documentary.
Irwin, who caught his first crocodile at the age of nine, had many close calls with rare and dangerous animals, crawling through forests and rivers around the world.
He boasted that he had never been bitten by a venomous snake or seriously bitten by a crocodile, although admitted his worst injuries had been inflicted by parrots. "I don't know what it is with parrots but they always bite me," Irwin once said. "A cockatoo once tried to rip the end of my nose off. I don't know what they've got against me."
Profile: The colourful life of Steve Irwin
4th September 2006
Australian "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin died on Monday after a stingray barb pierced his chest as he was filming a underwater documentary.
The iconic naturalist and broadcaster captured the hearts and imaginations of crocodile enthusiasts the world over.
Here, we look back at Irwin's rise to fame:
Irwin was born on February 22, 1962, in the southern Australian city of Melbourne and moved to tropical Queensland state where his parents ran a small reptile and fauna park. He grew up near crocodiles, trapping and removing them from populated areas and releasing them in his parent's park.
*Irwin took over the park in 1991 and renamed it the "Australia Zoo". He met his U.S.-born wife Terri at the zoo and the footage of their honeymoon, which they spent trapping crocodiles, formed the basis of his first "Crocodile Hunter" documentary. The shows had a worldwide audience of 200 million, or 10 times the population of Australia.
*Irwin went on to make 46 of the popular documentaries which appeared on cable TV channel "Animal Planet", as well as more than 20 episodes of "The Crocodile Hunter Diaries". In 2001, he appeared alongside Eddie Murphy in the Hollywood movie Dr Dolittle 2.
*While popular with television audiences the world over, Irwin also courted controversy. In 2004, he was widely condemned for feeding a snapping crocodile at his zoo while holding his then one-month-old baby son. Later the same year, he was also criticised for disturbing whales, seals and penguins while filming in Antarctica. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Australian government's environment department.
*Irwin was a guest at a barbecue in 2003 given by Australian Prime Minister John Howard for visiting U.S. President George W. Bush in Canberra.
*In June 2006, a tortoise named Harriet, one of the world's oldest animals, died at Irwin's zoo. The Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise was widely believed to have been collected by British scientist Charles Darwin in 1835. Some historians dispute this.