Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Wildlife Warrior

     A larger than life voice for wildlife and our environment has been silenced forever. A grim reminder that no one or nothing is invincible. This planet has lost one of its greatest ecologists, and a passionate defender of animal rights.  Steve Irwin via his T.V. series "The Crocodile Hunter" educated millions of children and adults worldwide; rather than preaching to them he modeled an attitude of love and respect for the planet and all its inhabitants. 
     Best known for his awe-inspiring, sometimes over-the-top antics, he transported the viewer from their living rooms into his world, a world that was centered on wildlife and wilderness conservation, teaching people to see the unique beauty of even the scariest species, and why harming them is wrong. Thanks to Steve, crocs have become awesome critters, and to many, snakes are no longer regarded as sinister creatures.
     Although his famed program was entitled “The Crocodile Hunter,” Steve was anything but a hunter! There are people who like animals, and then there are those who love animals. This unconditional love for animals is what sets people like Steve Irwin apart. Those who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to save an animal have true empathy, literally feeling the animal’s fear, pain, confusion etc. It leaves them no other option but to intervene; it’s not just an animal, it is a living, breathing life, precious and irreplaceable. Steve’s commitment to wildlife and wilderness conservation was absolute. He was determined to do everything he could to protect Australia’s, and the world’s, wild animals and their habitats; to raise people's awareness, all over the world about the environment and just how precious it is, all of it! It is mind-boggling that his uncanny affinity with animals and his daring nature that made him such a huge success ultimately cost him his life.
     Who was this wildlife warrior, Steve Irwin? He was born in Victoria, Australia his parents, owned and operated a reptile park in Queensland, Australia. Where he grew up around crocodiles and various reptiles. He became a volunteer for the Queensland Government’s East Coast Crocodile Management program, and captured and relocated crocodiles from populated areas where they were considered a danger. The rescued crocodiles were sent to his family’s reptile park. In 1991 Steve became the director of the family park and renamed it Australia Zoo, which is now world-famous. In 1992 he appeared in a reptile and wildlife special for television. Steve went on to star in other Animal Planet documentaries, including The Croc Files, The Crocodile Hunter Diaries, and New Breed Vets. And, as they say, the rest is history.
     Steve was a passionate and generous conservationist, using the wealth he accumulated for conservation purposes, spending millions buying areas of wilderness for parks. He also helped to found a number of other projects and charities including Wildlife Warriors Worldwide. He once stated that all the money he earned was spent on wildlife and it appears to be true. Steve and his family lived in a modest bungalow on the grounds of Australia Zoo.
     Queensland Premier Peter Beattie offered a state funeral, and Prime Minister John Howard said it would be appropriate, calling Irwin a great ambassador for Australia. His family declined the offer. Steve’s father stated his son would not have wanted a state funeral because he was “an ordinary bloke’’ and would want to be remembered that way.      However, we don’t believe there was anything ordinary about him.
     He was filled with youthful enthusiasm, thrived on daredevil antics, and was a natural entertainer who managed to entertain and educate millions about wildlife and conservation; his achievements were extraordinary. One must wonder, if not for his untimely death, how much more he would have been able to accomplish.
     Note: In honor of Steve Irwin, we invite anyone interested in learning more about our environment and local wildlife to visit with us during the "Semana Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología” organized by and held at El Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Chapala, on the Libramiento. This week-long event will be held at the Technical School on the Libramiento. It is open to the public 9:00 am -5:00 pm daily Oct. 23 – 27.