Crocodile Hunter no more

“He clearly took a lot of risks and television encouraged him to do that,” said Ray Mears, a Briton whose television programmes have included Extreme Survival.

“It’s a shame that TV audiences need that to be attracted to wildlife,” said Mears.

“Dangerous animals, you leave them alone because they will defend themselves. Nature defends itself, it isn’t all about hugging animals and going ‘ahh’.”

The ebullient Irwin , 44 , died after being stung by a stingray barb in a diving accident about 2 000km north off Port Douglas on the Great Barrier Reef.

“What he did was so extreme that it isn’t surprising that he died. Just the same, it is very sad,” said Kees Oscar Ekeli, a marine biologist and director of the Bergen Aquarium in Norway.

Although Irwin “went further than sensible”, Ekeli credited the Australian for doing “a fantastic job of spreading information about biology . . . and nature’s dangerous species.

“In the modern world’s noisy media picture, he used extreme methods to break through, and that is exactly what he did,” said Ekali.

British naturalist David Bellamy said he cried when he heard of Irwin’s death.

“The thing with Steve was he mixed damn good science with show business and I don’t know anyone else who did that,” Bellamy said.

British zoologist Mark O’Shea, who has also worked on TV, said Irwin had made a massive contribution to conservation in Australia.

“It is going to leave an immense hole,” said O’Shea, who credited Irwin with inspiring a new generation of conservationists.

“A lot of people who now want to study biology and work with animals may not have considered it before they watched him on television,” O’Shea said.

Africa’s great crocodile hunter saluted Irwin on Monday, saying his death was an “unfitting” end for the fearless showman.

Khalid Hassen, who had shot more than 17 000 African crocodiles in a hunting career spanning over four decades, said:

“I am very upset to hear about it. I know that he led a dangerous life, but it just doesn’t seem right that a fish should kill him . . . it is an unfitting death for him.

“I thought he would perhaps get mauled by a crocodile, but a stingray?”

Irwin, who died after the fish pierced his chest as he was filming an underwater documentary, was known all over the world.

Hassen, a successful Malawian businessman, has probably killed more crocodiles than anyone else, but he said he had huge respect for Irwin and his non-lethal methods of trapping the big reptiles.

“He was a conservationist and I’m a hunter, I’m a killer,” he said, adding that Irwin was a fearless man. ‘ AP.

September 2006
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