Today Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, would have turned 55. That’s a young age (especially for those of us who recently passed 30), but it feels even younger knowing that he passed away over 11 years ago.
The Crocodile Hunter
|Steve Irwin (Left) holding crocodile (Right)|
For those who didn’t grow up with him, let me fill you in. Steve Irwin was the host of several Animal Planet shows back when they still had shows about animals. As his name earlier suggests he specialized in crocodiles but also dealt with all manner of deadly and exotic animals, mostly in his home in Australia. He was unique in that instead of just filming the animal then doing a commentary over the video he would actually interact with the animals, at time risking life and limb in order to give us, the audience, a unique perspective on the creatures we may’ve never had a chance to see. His wife and daughter became part of the experience as well, though they didn’t showcase as dangerous of animals.
End of an Era
Sadly, though, Irwin passed away before his time due to a freak encounter with a manta ray while filming another episode of his show. For those of us who were fans, this came as an extreme shock to us. While he did flirt with danger (Including one episode where he received a snake bite that made a young Joe cringe into the couch), he was always respectful of animal boundaries and limitations. He was a huge advocate for animal rights, and made sure to let those of us watching what not to do when encountering dangerous animals in our own back yards.
It’s interesting to me how much of an impact Irwin had on me both as a child and now as an adult. I find myself when visiting zoos and other animal attractions looking at the conditions the animals are in and wonder if they’re happy there. While I grew up in a family that loved and respected animals, I think it was watching Irwin that helped cement in me the need to steward these precious creatures wherever they are. I think it’s also why I get so outraged when I find out that an animal is abused or neglected.
A Sad Orca
|Newborn whale at Sea World seen through murky water.|
The one time I visited Sea World I remember how excited I was to finally see the whales. These beautiful orcas I’d seen in movies and read so much about. When we got to the tank between shows though, I noticed one of the males floating vertically and idly bumping his nose against the bottom of the dingy pool. I asked the attendant what he was doing and she said it was a sign of boredom. To me it looked like a sign of extreme depression if anything, but to me the fact that the whale was that bored was a sign that his enclosure was not suited to his needs. I was outraged. I have yet to be back, though I was relieved to hear that they have liquidated their orca program.
When it comes to childhood heroes there’s no telling what shape or size they come in. To me Irwin was a hero because he had a passion fo
r some of the most extraordinary creatures in the world, and he did what should be a goal for everyone: he died doing what he loved.