Monday, September 04, 2006

Land From Down-Under Loses An Ambassador

As Australia mourns the loss of a native son, we who love learning about animals share in their loss.

Steve Irwin, who died today from a stingray barb during a diving expedition, not only introduced us to animals but showed us how to (or not to) mingle with animals in their habitat.

I remember as a kid watching Lorne Green's "Wild Kingdom" show. Lorne would narrate while his assistant Bob would get close to wild animals in their habitat. It was a great show but the close calls they had with the animals seem staged compared to today's standards. But it was the 70's and who knew? Lorne was the man.

It wasn't until Steve Irwin's show "Crocodile Hunter" aired years later that Lorne's Wild Kingdom lost a bit of its bite. What Crocodile Hunter did was put you the viewer on the edge of danger with Steve while he approached a wild animal, caught it and pried open its jowls to show you its carniverous set of choppers. All done while explaining to us what would happen if we ever got caught by such an animal. I don't ever recall Lorne or Bob showing such courage. Maybe a zoom in on a pack of lions roaming the Serengeti Plains, but Lorne didn't take any chances when it came to getting out on foot and approaching a wild animal.

The Crocodile Hunter was just the opposite. He had to get a close up view of the animals and their habitat and instead of showing fear he displayed a kid-like curiousity that brought out the curious george kid in all of us watching.

We Americans loved the movie character "Crocodile Dundee" when it hit the screens here in the United States. But we knew the character was just a Hollywood re-creation of a tarzan-like hero. That was until the Crocodile Hunter landed on the screen. Crocodile Hunter was the real Dundee. He really had a way with animals that very few humans have. What made him so enjoyable to watch was that he loved doing what he did and he made you love watching him do it.

Personally, I'm not much of an animal lover. I'm ashamed to say that I did all the bad things Little boys dream of doing to animals. Cats, Frogs, Turtles and Insects all were just torture victims throughout my childhood. I wasn't curious to see how animals lived but how they died. That bit of sadistic treatment probably is what molded me into the horror movie and rabid contact sports fanatic that I am today. I'm not proud of it but as Popeye would say, "I am what I am."

Had I had a Steve Irwin on the tube during my childhood teaching me how to meet and mingle with animals maybe I'd be a pet owner today, who knows? But I'm glad to have had a chance to watch Steve in action and he's taught me lessons I continue to learn everyday, lessons like you're never to old to learn and instead of being fearful of things unknown, be curious and adventurous learning about them. And Careful!

I don't know all the details of Steve Irwin's death, but it sounds like he died doing what he loved, exploring the animal kingdom.

Steve Irwin, aka "Crocodile Hunter", dead at age 44

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