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September 5, 2006

Crikey indeed

irony; from the Latin ironia; incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result; example: earning fame and fortune wrestling crocodiles and being killed by a basically inoffensive marine creature.

Beloved naturalist Steve Irwin, aka “the crocodile hunter,” was killed by a stingray during a diving expedition off the Australian coast on Sunday. The stingray’s barb had pierced the tv personality’s heart and he died within moments.

Steve’s death is as tragic as it is rare. In fact, only one other Aussie has been known to die from a stingray attack and that was back in 1945. Stingrays are usually unobtrusive, gliding through the water, rummaging on the sea bottom for food or burrowing into the sand. But when the animal feels threatened, it deploys its venom-tipped barb.

While the number of humans killed by stingrays is next to nothing, the same cannot be said for the number of stingrays killed by humans.

For decades, stingrays had been caught and killed incidentally in shrimp and fish trawls. Now, however, fishermen are directly targeting them and killing them in huge numbers to satisfy the growing demand for their skin. Trendy stingray leather is being used for everything from wallets to fancy pens. Numerous marine biologists believe that the trend is contributing to their rapid decline and, if left unchecked, may lead to the complete collapse of their populations.

I’m truly saddened by Steve Irwin’s passing. Before coming to Oceana, I was the Executive Vice President of, the online division of Discovery Communications. Animal Planet was one of the many popular programs we ran, but it was also one of my personal favorites. Steve and I shared a love for creatures – especially the creepy crawly ones – and both worked for their protection. But we had little else in common. Steve had a slightly more…um…”hands on” approach then I do, and a much cooler accent. He will be missed.