Steve Irwin's father Bob spoke with the media today about the private campfire farewell held on the grounds of Australia Zoo Saturday evening. Very few details of the funeral were given, but the elder Irwin noted family and friends had the opportunity to share their favorite stories about the man the rest of the world knew as the larger-than-life Crocodile Hunter.
Director of the Australia Zoo and Steve Irwin's "best mate" Wes Mannion also met with the media to discuss an upcoming public memorial. The event will be held either Tuesday or Wednesday [it's not entirely clear if they mean this week or next, as reports vary from site to site], according to Mannion. And the celebration of the conservationist's life promises to be "'an exciting and fun thing because that's the sort of man he was.'"
Mannion credits Irwin with saving his life several years ago after a croc named Graham took a bite out of him. Wes was assisting Steve in clearing debris from a storm-clogged drain when the crocodile attacked. Steve grabbed the giant reptile's tail and shoved a broom handle between its jaws as Wes jumped to safety.
Steve Irwin was killed last Monday. He was filming a segment for his daughter Bindi's upcoming Animal Planet series when he swam over a stingray, which flicked its tail upward and the barb on the tail pierced his heart.
News of his death spread quickly, with many fans hoping it wasn't true. After years of unfounded rumors of the Croc Hunter's death, even this writer found it difficult to accept. An email to a friend who has worked with Irwin for many years revealed the news to be all too real.
Cable networks carried endless streaming news, as well as many previously aired interviews with Irwin. Wildlife documentarians Jack Hanna, Jeff Corwin, and Jim Fowler were also interviewed for their take on the death of their colleague. Each expressed sympathy for widow Terri and the couple's two children. Additionally, they all shared the sentiment that Steve Irwin was a true professional and a highly skilled wildlife expert.
Fowler, known for his work on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, told Alan Colmes of Hannity & Colmes, "From where I sat, Steve Irwin was a real professional. He knew what he was doing. And you know, to an audience, it may look like he was taking some risks. — No, no. He was calculated. He really knew what he was doing. …I didn't necessarily believe in wearing short pants like he did, but I found him a true professional." Fowler went on to state, "I was really impressed with Steve Irwin, that he had in his lifetime, he had developed a lot of knowledge about what he was doing."
Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and host of his own wildlife show, said, "[Steve] wasn't really taking that many chances. He was not a dumb guy, you know. There's a big difference between being calculated and in a safe situation and being foolish. And he wasn't being foolish any time that I saw him."
Jeff Corwin, star of his own Animal Planet wildlife series, often approaches venomous snakes and dangerous animals in the same manner Irwin did. Corwin told CNN Steve's death was one of those bizarre events calling for one to take stock of one's life. "'The reality is, there's always a risk when you work with wildlife. You do your best to take precautions.'"
Speculation over the risks the Croc Hunter took to educate audiences on the beauty and necessity of wildlife and habitat preservation have been a recurring theme in the media and online for years. However, as wife Terri Irwin once pointed out, police and firefighters head out to their jobs and face unknown dangers every day. Pilots, construction workers, the military, all face certain risks each time they show up for work. The key, of course, is in knowing the risks, training to minimalize the danger, and accepting the responsibility for yourself and your crew. And it would seem, based on statements made by those who work in conditions similar to Steve's, he was educated, skilled, and always prepared.
Let the naysayers and critics spout their ill-timed and, often, cruel words. Such is the nature of celebrity and snarky opponents. Let it be known, though, the majority of the world mourns over the loss of Steve Irwin and will remember him as the man who brought the wild, and a bright ray of light, into our homes.
Since most fans will not be able to jet down to Australia for the public memorial this (or, more likely, next) week, allow me to offer a suggestion or two: pull out all your old videotapes of The Crocodile Hunter and have a good cry. Then, go volunteer at a local wildlife rehab facility or make a donation to the Wildlife Warrior Fund in Steve's honor.Powered by Sidelines