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Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin Killed by Sting Ray

I received an early morning email regarding the death of Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter. The loss is a sad one--but not unexpected. Condolences must go out to the family, friends, and staff who worked with the Irwins. I've included some links to the side if you would like to read more--or send your sentiments to the Irwin family. Here is a link to Google news items on the death of Steve Irwin.

My hope is that the lesson of this untimely loss ultimately becomes an illustration that working with wild animals is always risky. Unfortunately, this one had deadly consequences. I believe the unfamiliarity of the species and the aquatic environment were what contributed to the deadly incident.

Over the years I have lost friends and colleagues from animal attacks and witnessed more than my share of animal incidents. It is a numbers game in many cases. Instincts and skill play an important part in safety. Despite what people want to believe, The Crocodile Hunter show was known in the professional animal realm for taking too many risks with animals and also exposing the humans involved in filming to unnecessary risk.

People seem to be startled that Irwin died by an animal attack from a “non-aggressive” animal. Here is the fact that remains: Anything with a barb, spine, teeth, claws, or other defensive weapons is potentially dangerous. The underlying issue is the dismissal of risks involved with working with any animal.

All the attacks I have witnessed have been the fault of humans, Jack Hanna recently made a comment that about 99% of attacks were the fault of humans, so I think we are in alignment. There are many reasons animals will react defensively or aggressively.

Ultimately, until we respect animals and teach people how to properly understand and interact (or not attempt to interact as proper animal etiquette dictates) we will still see dog bites, cat scratches, and more daunting interludes with urban wildlife.

Injuries from deer, bears, squirrel bites, and other such repercussions of bad behavior toward wildlife show just how naive the masses are to the individuality of creatures and the need to treat them with respect and to use common sense around them. The current edu-tainment shows do nothing to teach the masses about common sense and respect when it comes to dealing with animals.

The funny thing about the media is that the general public believes they actually know people through the persona they are presented. Kids everywhere are devastated. One friend commented, "Steve Irwin felt like a big goofy brother who always was doing silly things, taking dares--you shook your head but you liked him." I think that is a good description that also sums up his public appeal.

My understanding (from the time I worked behind the scenes with the Irwins) was that the first episode of the Crocodile Hunter was produced for a paltry $20,000 dollars. This appealed to budget conscious executives. The buzz is also that people are tired of credentialed experts and want people they can relate to. Animal Planet's Irwin fit that bill. An average bloke? Maybe--but also a good showman. National Geographic's Cesar Milan (Dog Whisperer) has the same appeal and fits the growing demographic of hispanic viewers. Both have talent in their own right, but their examples do not illustrate the best ways to work with animals.

Anyway both the Irwins and Milan have used their brains and created brands that will carry their empire forward. In the case of the Irwin's this includes clothing lines, toys, and enhancements to their Australia Zoo. The small zoo that once attracted few patrons is now one of Australia's most popular tourist attractions ...which holds a lot of weight.

Case in point, the Bob Irwin incident with Murray the Crocodile. Public outcry over this incident got the Crocodile Hunter in hot water. What I didn't like about Irwin's explanation was his use of Bindi dressed in frilly attire (not the usual khaki's) during his interview with Matt Lauer. Take a look at the Steve Irwin video interview with Matt Lauer regarding the incident with Bob Irwin and Murray the Crocodile--and decide for yourself.

Next, Steve Irwin landed in icy water over his alleged incidents involving marine mammals in Antarctica during the filming of Ice Breaker. An investigation over violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act ensued but Steve Irwin's actions were cleared.

There are a multitude of opinions about Irwin, the savvy and sensitive have kept their mouths shut but now the underlying truth always surfaces. Eric Sharp (Detroit Free Press) wrote an early pragmatic commentary regarding Steve Irwin--these types of slants are hugely unpopular but bring up good points related to the sensationalism on animal television.

Personally, I despise reality television and the exploitation over the intrigue surrounding bad behavior. I seriously dislike the invasiveness into wild habitat and find the encroachment on an animal's personal space is disturbing, it certainly does not instill respect or teach proper animal etiquette to the masses.

I've also found the whole aftermath of Steve Irwin's death a bit disturbing. The Crocodile Hunter's filmed death was bad enough, but the fact that there was even a discussion regarding the ownership of the film footage of Steve Irwin's death was distasteful. What makes me a bit uneasy is that the ownership of the film of Irwin’s demise may be disputed. That is the ultimate in bad behavior in my book. I hope it doesn’t hit the internet--but it probably will. How insensitive will that be? But I also have to ask, how many people watched the show to see if he would be kicked, bitten, scratched, or worse?

Commentaries began appearing on Steve Irwin's method (not motive) from India and about how he illustrated the point that " Life is Dangerous So Live Now ."

In the meantime word spread quickly about the New Star Search right after Steve Irwin was laid to rest. Never mind that he only just was buried, the Discovery Search for Signature Talent was a hot topic in the media. Spoof talent videos even began to appear. Others saw an opportunity and began posting items on eBay--profiting from his death.

Meanwhile, just how the Queensland Police determined what the stingray's animal’s behavior was unprovoked is a mystery to me...none are behavior experts that I know of .

Irwin's family and friends gathered for a fireside ceremony prior to the big public Steve Irwin memorial event at the Crocoseum. This media icon was very popular and sparked a wide variety of sentiment and interest. Did you see this Steve Irwin tribute video from Regis and Kelly? There are also tribute and other videos of Steve Irwin at CBS.

Germaine Greer at the Guardian wrote this unpopular commentary about Steve Irwin and I am sure others will surface over time.

As for the Irwin family, the masses will probably now follow Bindi Irwin and I wish them Godspeed in their healing.

Ultimately, I hope the loss of the television talent sparks a change away from the reality television to something that prompts people to try another path of entertainment and education for animals in the media.

Read more about the Irwin family:

Wikopedia: Steve Irwin

Australia Zoo

Animal Planet's Crocodile Hunter Site

Irwin's Wildlife Warriors

Steve Irwin Video Clip Page


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Guerrero Ink: Freelance Animal Writer

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