09/04/2006 02:11 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin: So Much More Than A Showman


When a great person who makes us more aware of the grandeurs of life on this planet dies, all on earth lose a little.

By now, you've likely heard that television's "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, was killed over the weekend by means of a lethal jab from a stingray.

No mistake about it: Steve had his showmanship aspects. Every reptile he introduced to his audiences elicited a chain of colorful descriptors. And yes, he shouldn't have taken his one-year old into a crocodile's lair, as he did a few years ago and was roundly criticized for.

But there was another Steve Irwin, a man who by the sum total of his life' work was a conservation and animal rights advocate for reptiles and amphibians much in the same way the sainted Jane Goodall has been for chimps.

"I consider myself a wildlife warrior. My mission is to save the world's endangered species," he often said. It is known that Irwin bought "large tracts of land" in Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the United States, which he described in a 2003 interview as "like national parks" and stressed the importance of people realizing that they could each make a difference.

Steve was a highly vocal critic of those human vermin who support illegal poaching by buying turtle shells, or items made from gorilla paws or elephant's feet.

"These Hitlers use the camouflage of science to make money out of animals... So whenever they murder our animals and call it sustainable use, I'll fight it," he declared. Since when has killing a wild animal, eating it or wearing it, ever saved a species? There are people who butt out their cigarettes in gorilla-paw ashtrays, with wastepaper baskets that were once elephant feet, who have ivory ornaments... who wear cheetah fur. Don't buy these things! Then there'll be no market and the animals won't be killed.

"We have domesticated livestock raised for consumption and perfectly good fake leather and fur, so why must we kill wild animals to satisfy the macabre taste of some rich person?"

Steve founded the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, which changed its name to Wildlife Warrior Worldwide.

Upon learning of Steve's death, CEO of RSPCA Queeensland (Australia) Mark Townend called him "a modern-day Noah."

I can think of no more fitting tribute.