Crocodile Hunter Dies
By Suzanne Freeman
The accident took place while Irwin was diving off the Great Barrier Reef of Australia's northeast coast. As he swam over the more than 200-pound stingray, its poisonous tail spiked him in the chest. The attack damaged his heart.
Irwin was filming the dive for a documentary. Camera lights might have startled the animal, causing it to lift its tail in defense as Irwin swam over it.
Deaths from encounters with stingrays are extremely rare. Irwin is only the third person in Australia to be killed by a stingray.
Irwin was well known for his extremeand controversialanimal handling. His documentaries, including his popular cable TV show on the Animal Planet, The Crocodile Hunter, drew more than 200 million viewers.
He was also known as a leader in conservation efforts. He dedicated his life to promoting the safety of earth's most dangerous creatures.
"I was actually put on this Earth to promote conservation so people can protect wilderness areas, love wildlife, and feel energy, passion, and enthusiasm for our beautiful native animal species," Irwin told Scholastic News in an interview in 2002. The interview was to promote his movie, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course.
Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, was close to tears as he remembered Irwin on Monday.
"I really do feel Australia has lost a wonderful and colorful son," Howard said. "He took risks, he enjoyed life, he brought immense joy to millions of people, particularly to children. He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. It's such a terrible loss."
The producers of Animal Planet say they may set up a fund in Irwin's name. The money would be used to support wildlife issues, Irwin's zoo, and the education of his two children.
Discovery Communications is also renaming a garden outside its Maryland headquarters in Irwin's honor.
Animal Planet will continue to air his shows. The cable network is showing a tribute to Irwin at 6 p.m. EDT on September 5.
Irwin was involved with animal care since his childhood days in Queensland. The family opened a small wildlife park there when Irwin was 8 years old. He was catching crocodiles for the park when he was 9.
He took over the park from his parents in 1991, renaming it the Australia Zoo. It is now a major tourist attraction, with more than 1,000 animals on 60 acres of bush land.
"We take great pride in not holding our animals in stereotypical zoo cages," Irwin told Scholastic News. "It's where the animals run free and the people are kept in confined areas. The animals kind of run the place. My job at Australia Zoo is also about educating people about conservation. That's what we do at the zoo."
He met his American-born wife, Terri, at the zoo, and they married six months later. Their children are Bindi Sue, 8, and Robert, 3.
Critical Thinking Question
How did Steve Irwin's popular TV show help people develop a respect for dangerous animals like snakes and crocodiles?
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RELATED WEB SITE
Steve Irwin Interview
Steve Irwin talked with Scholastic News in April of 2002. Check out what he had to say about working with dangerous animals, a job that recently took his life.