Bitter and Twisted
I stumbled across an episode of the Crocodile Hunter years ago (the one where he was in East Timor or somewhere awful like that) and thought it was a normal nature documentary. Then this mad Aussie guy leapt on top of a 16-foot crocodile with just a pair of khaki shorts and a piece of rope, and I couldn't believe my eyes. My heart was in my mouth as I watched him, but after a few minutes I started to realise that this wasn't his first time wrangling a croc with his bare hands, and that he did it on a regular basis! After that I was hooked, and watched Crocodile Hunter anytime it was on. His enthusiasm for conservation, ecology and the environment seemed boundless, and he wasn't some dusty old academic droning on about sustainable fishing from a studio somewhere.
My absolute favourite Croc Hunter was when Steve was in Madagascar and he came across a hedgehog. He'd never seen a hedgehog, and he was SO EXCITED to see this little baby one. It didn't have poisonous fangs or sharp claws, just little spines and the propensity to curl up into a ball - but Steve LOVED him. I couldn't believe this dude who wrestled crocodiles, snakes and spiders was so impressed with a wee beastie like a hedgehog.
I've been reading lots of reactions from other naturalists/Australians/people-with-opinions and they seem to be pretty divided. Most are sad to hear of his untimely death, others are firmly in the i-told-you-so camp, like this lovely lady. I used to respect Germaine Greer, but I'm afraid I found this diatribe pretty crass. She may not have agreed with his approach, but it was well-intentioned, and a lot of people who know and care about conservation now might not give two hoots if it hadn't been for Steve Irwin. That's no bad thing if you ask me.
And that's not to mention the huge amount of time and money he poured into stopping the trade in illegal animal products, and preserving the habitats of those animals whose species have been forced to the point of extinction because of the selfishness of humans. Would Greer prefer that Steve Irwin had spent his life working quietly in anonymity making a tiny difference to these issues, or that he used his TV-friendly personality to promote them and bring them to a huge audience, in order to save her delicate sensibilities being offended?
But I must come down from my soapbox.
Whatever Greer's feelings are about Steve, he was still a person with a young family - a family who are grieving and contemplating a life without a loved one. Maybe I'm a bit sensitive to this, having prematurely lost my dad last year, but Greer seems to be revelling in Steve Irwin's demise without thinking that his family might one day read her little column and be hurt by it.
She should save her cynicism for over her own dinner table (I bet Friday nights are a hoot round her house).