Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 5 Issue 113 | September 22, 2006 |

   Cover Story
   Straight Talk
   View from the    Bottom
   Special Feature
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks

   SWM Home


Farewell to Steve Irwin
The Crocodile Hunter

Duncan Chowdhury

Those of us who spend much time on a couch, surfing through the TV channels like Discovery, Animal Planet or National Geography, they would be familiar with this middle aged TV host in safari shirt and khaki shorts, often wrestling with a crocodile or having a close encounter with a deadly venomous snake. He is no other than Steve Irwin, nicknamed Crocodile Hunter, as he was very much accustomed to close encounters with crocodiles bare handed in TV shows.

Steve Irwin met an unfortunate death on Monday, September 4, 2006. He was killed by the rip of a stingray while he was snorkeling over it in the shallow waters of the Great Barrier Reef off the town of Port Douglas, in Queensland, Australia. He was engaged in shooting a documentary “Ocean's Deadliest”. The barbed serrated tail tip of the stingray pierced his heart right through when he possibly stepped on it. It is rare for a stingray to become so fierce, as it has always been considered to be a timid and harmless creature. Immediately after the attack, before losing consciousness, he himself had pulled out the barbed tail causing a puncture in his heart, soon after he died of cardiac arrest, in the water.

It was quite unusual for a crocodile hunter to have an unusual death like this. Death during a close encounter with the nature's deadliest animal like the monster crocs, killer sharks or venomous snakes would not have been unusual for this great crocodile expert. He earned his fame as a crocodile hunter, but in reality he was a great friend of the crocs and a relentless worker for their conservation. He devoted his life for the welfare of these endangered species.

Steve is survived by his American born wife Terri Raines and his two children, three-year-old son Robert and eight-year-old daughter Bindi Sue. His wife, too an animal conservationist like him, spent much of her time in efforts for the conservation of extinct animals.

The death of Steve Irwin moved millions of his fans in 133 countries. The Australian Prime Minister John Howard paid a very special tribute to him. Steve captivated the hearts of millions with his fearless encounters with the deadliest animals in his shows. He capitalised his popularity and tried to send a message to the public for conserving animals, especially the endangered ones. He was a national icon of Australia.

Steve Irwin was born on February 22, 1962 in Essendon, Victoria, in Australia. His father was a plumber and mother a maternity nurse. They were amateur naturalists and in 1970 moved to Queensland, where they bought four acres of land to start a animal park, which was opened for public in 1973. Later Steve Irwin and his wife nurtured this animal park, which gradually became a popular wildlife park in Australia.

Irwin was a born naturalist. It was not at all a surprise for him, when his parents presented him an 11-foot-long python on his 6th birthday. In his childhood he learnt jumping on crocs from his father and later managed 150 of them at their park. He helped his parents in their animal park nursing injured birds and raising kangaroos.

Wrestling with crocodiles and entertaining people made Irwin a millionaire, however he spent his money for projects worldwide for protecting the world's most endangered species. He and his wife Terri founded the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation for this purpose. The key projects of this foundation are to fund wild life hospitals, which rescue thousands of sick and injured animals each year in Queensland. It also supports research initiatives for saving crocodiles from extinction, animal habitat protection, elephant conservation programmes in Cambodia and Vietnam, tiger protection programmes in India, Bhutan and Sumatra, etc.

Animal Planet, a network of Discovery Communications became very popular worldwide only when they found Steve Irwin, hosting their famous animal shows, wrestling with crocodiles or poisonous snakes. Irwin also starred in the feature movie in 2002 - “The Crocodile Hunter, Collision Course.”

Discovery Communications, the US media company, says that they will create the Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter Fund, to be nicknamed “The Crickey Fund” after his signature exclamation. He often expressed the term 'Crickey' whenever exited.

He was once especially criticised for violating an Australian law, which prohibits human interaction with the wildlife. While filming a documentary in Antarctica in 2004, he was accused of getting too close to penguins and humpback whales and once feeding a chicken to a croc with one hand and he cradled his young son Robert on the other hand, endangering his son's life.

Steve Irwin the hyper-enthusiastic, danger-courting Australian wildlife conservationist can only be compared with his British counterpart Sir David Attenborough, who became similarly popular for the BBC's remarkable wild life series “The World of Birds”. Sir Attenborough dealt with birds, mostly harmless creatures while Irwin struggled with the challenge of encountering the deadliest animals.

The Australian Prime Minister had offered a state funeral for him, which his family humbly denied and decided for a private funeral with close and dear ones only. Accordingly a low key profile funeral took place on Saturday, September 9, 2006 at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. His mortal remains will be buried in their family zoo where a memorial will be built upon it later. This will facilitate his fans to pay their respect to him. The family also plans to hold a public memorial service at Brisbane's, Suncorp Stadium later this week.

It has been presumed by many of the family friends that his daughter Bindi may follow the footsteps of his late father, working for the preservation of the animal world in future. His passion for animals, like his father, indicates such an assumption, however, time itself will answer this question. Though it has always been said that people like Steve Irwin is born only once in a bluemoon.




Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2006