Wednesday, September 06, 2006

 

Sincere Crocodile Tears

I'm saddened by the loss of Steve Irwin.

I watched many of his Croc Hunter shows on Animal Planet and learned a great deal from them. They had an impact on my awareness and interest in animals and nature. After his show became popular he began to target a younger audience and I found the bells and whistles added to his nature footage to be a little too much for me. But I still liked to hear him speak on various forms of wildlife.

Despite his hands on approach to nature I didn't find his actions to be quite as dangerous as they appeared because of his knowledge of the situation. For this I am curious to know what he was doing prior to his being struck by a stingray. I've seen Irwin approach a snake and announce to the camera that this particular species can strike a distance of up to half its body length so he then knows how far to keep clear of it's fangs. This does leave him in danger if he missteps but it is a careful calculation on his part.

The statistics I've heard quoted suggest that stingray strikes rarely cause death. The difference in Irwin's unfortunate situation was that the tail or barb of the stingray struck him in the chest and pierced his heart with a venomous blow. He may very well have mentioned the striking distance and capabilities of the stingray before he approached. Regardless, it appears from the reports of the incident that strike caught everyone by surprise and that was a big factor in the risks Irwin took when interacting with wildlife. He always knew the species' general behavior tendencies before approaching and he would act accordingly. I'm not sure what he was thinking prior to approaching the stingray and I'm sad to see he wont be able to share any more of his thoughts and experiences with his audience.

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