IN PRAISE OF A WILDLIFE WARRIOR: A TRIBUTE TO STEVE IRWIN
By: Patti Strand Date: 01/27/2012
To some, he was as wild as the animals he caught on film. To others, he was a consummate showman. But no one could accuse Steve Irwin of ambivalence or complacency.
He knew all too well that wildlife could be dangerous, even deadly, but he chose to take the risks involved in hunting down and capturing that wildlife on film for his viewers’ edification. On September 4, 2006, he died in the course of that hunt.
He called himself a “wildlife warrior.” He dedicated his life and the greater share of his earnings to conserving Australia’s natural wonders. His warrior spirit was not spent on violence or hatred, though. Instead, he armed himself with enthusiasm, wonder, and sensitivity. He entertained while educating. He raised our awareness of this planet’s myriad life forms by appealing to our enjoyment of his stories. He exuded a gleeful awe for the worlds of wildlife he led us through from the safety of our living rooms. He understood those worlds better than many of us will ever understand the ecosystems of our own back yards. And yet, he never condemned us. He welcomed us respectfully and quite vigorously and then proceeded to cajole us into a greater appreciation of the world in which he thrived.
We may have occasionally shaken our heads at the outrageous persona we came to know as the Crocodile Hunter, but his exuberance, skill and boundless energy earned our admiration and perhaps a modicum of envy. After all, he lived the life he was meant to live and shared that gift with all of us.
Queensland’s Australia Zoo — a living testament to Irwin’s regard not only for its resident species but also its human visitors, will seem less colorful without his leadership. And the absence of his joie de vivre will leave the viewers of wildlife programs a little more subdued. But if Steve Irwin imbued even one person with a fraction of his delight in and love for the marvelous varieties of life on this planet, then his life was indeed richly spent and continues through the spirit he embodied.
Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and colleagues.
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