Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, September 07, 2006

An Ordinary Bloke

by Julie Coulter Bellon

The world lost a great wildlife conservationist this week. Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter" died as a result of a stingray barb penetrating his heart while he was filming a documentary. He was only 44 years old and leaves behind a wife, Terri, and two children, a daughter, Bindi Sue, who is eight years old and a son Bob, who is two years old.

I first came across Steve Irwin when I was channel surfing one evening. He was speaking into the camera as they were about to "relocate" a crocodile who'd wandered into an inhabited area. In my mind I was thinking why don't they just shoot it with a tranquilizer and call it a day, and in his next breath he answered my question as if he'd read my mind. Tranquilizers and drugs are extremely stressful for the crocodiles and can kill them. His method is to cover their eyes and put your full weight on its back so it can be moved safely. It was very interesting to see how much he loved crocodiles, calling them "beauties" and educating the world in his unique way about creatures that are generally feared. I, myself, never really liked reptiles, crocodiles included, but I didn't know much about them either, and Steve changed that for me. Steve was a man who was passionate about what he did, and he made it his life's mission to educate people about wildlife.

His show, "The Crocodile Hunter" was a show that the entire family could watch. His exuberance and excitement was contagious and I loved his accent. The only time I ever saw him look truly worried was in the episode where his wife fell out of the boat into crocodile infested waters. When you were watching Steve and Terri together you could see that they were a team and truly loved what they were doing. Terri is an American, born in Eugene, Oregon, and she met Steve while on a vacation to Australia. On a whim, she decided to visit his zoo to look at their rehabilitation facilities and after a chance meeting with Steve, ended up staying. She was an animal rescuer in her own right before she met Steve, working at a veterinary hospital, running "Cougar Country" in Oregon, which was a place for rescued wild animals such as foxes, bears, bobcats, and cougars to recuperate before being released back in the wild as well as taking care of her many cats, dogs, and birds. She left it all, however, after meeting Steve Irwin, and an ensuing whirlwind courtship led to their marriage within six months of their meeting. She was a constant on his television show and I think she was a calming presence for Steve.

Steve Irwin always loved animals and was around them his entire life because of his parents' life work in conservation. His 6th birthday present was a 12 ft. scrub python, and he had captured and re-located his first crocodile by the age of nine. He'd taken his share of hits however, having his ear torn half off, being bitten by snakes and crocodiles, squeezed by a python, and had boar prickles in his face to name a few. He knew it was a risky job, but he said many times that it was worth it if he could educate people about wildlife as well as share his passion for conservation. He was able to reach so many more people through television, pioneering the genre practically, since there were only two wildlife shows on before he came along, and there were more than thirty shows after "The Crocodile Hunter" aired.

I guess the thing I admired most about Steve Irwin is that he never pretended to be anything other than who he was. Some made fun of his signature, "Crikey!" and the animated way he approached what he considered to be his life mission, but he went forward appearing in numerous television shows, talk shows, animated series, and documentaries in an effort to help others appreciate and respect earth's creatures. He was a humble man, described as an "ordinary bloke" who knew what he wanted to do with his life and he did it. Would that we could all be so lucky.

So while there are those who say that Steve Irwin was a thrill seeker and his untimely death was bound to happen, I say that Steve Irwin was a man with a mission. He fulfilled that mission to the best of his abilities and gave his life for it. Interestingly enough, money for his foundation has poured in since his death and Internet sites describing Steve and his animal charities have had to shut down because of the enormous amount of traffic. He will be remembered for his zest for life, his love for animals, and his dynamic personality. But most of all, I hope his family can find comfort in the fact that Steve Irwin touched lives all over the world because of the kind human being he was and his compelling and charismatic style that brought the plight of wildlife to the forefront. He leaves behind an amazing legacy. I hope his wife and children know that Steve lives on through them and their memories of him. He was a hero to some, a friend to many, and he will be greatly missed.

Steve Irwin 1962-2006


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