Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Don't blame the stingrays

The recent untimely death of Australian naturalist Steve Irwin has provoked a largely mixed reaction within the mainstream media and the blogosphere. Some commentators have paid tribute to him for his conservation work and his success in stimulating greater public interest in wildlife. Others have castigated him for brash, loud-mouthed manner and his irresponsible behaviour in getting up and close and personal with highly dangerous animals such as crocodiles and snakes. The writer Germaine Greer insensitively described his death as the animal world's revenge.

The upshoot of it all is that if you play with fire you will eventually get your fingers burned. Irwin was well aware of the risks he was taking, but died doing what he loved best. In this way he can likened to the motorcyclist Joey Dunlop who was tragically killed after crashing into a tree during a race in Estonia. Both men lived dangerously and came to a sudden end by indulging in their lifelong passions. To die of a jab to the heart from a stingray's poisoned barb is certainly a tragedy, (all the more so in that such fatalities are incredibly rare) but given Irwin’s lack of respect for such creatures not altogether surprising. His foolhardy antics eventually landed him in trouble after feeding a crocodile at close range at his zoo while holding his young son. Whether you loved him or hated him Irwin was certainly a colourful character - something of a cross between Crocodile Dundee and David Attenborough - and condolences must go out to his family.

However one thing Irwin would not have wanted to happen was the wanton killing of stingrays along the Queensland coast. According to news reports a number of the dead fish were found washed up on the shore with their tails chopped off as an apparent form of "revenge" for the conservationist's death. Few animals will attack without provocation and stingrays do not deserve to demonised in this way. The most dangerous species on the planet is the human being - an animal which will attack and kill those of its own species and countless others without motive.

1 comment:

Lorainne said...

I agree - irwin was aware of the risks he was taking and the odds were that his luck would run out in the end. There will always be people who will use any excuse to be cruel to animals or fellow human beings.