Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Crocodile Hunter No More

Steve Irwin, television's fabled Crocodile Hunter, has been killed at 44. As you might have guessed, he was killed by a poisonous animal. Ironically, experts are suggesting that this was a fluke, that Irwin was killed by one of the least dangerous of the animals he performed with, the stingray, and that in fact if the stingray had struck anywhere but Irwin's heart, he would probably be alive today. Nevertheless, I contend that Irwin should be alive today, for this simple reason. He is a father.

Irwin has two small children; Bindi, 8 and Bob, 3, who achieved fame a couple of years ago when Irwin seemed poised to feed poor Bob to a crocodile. (In fact, he was only taking Bob in to accompany him on his visit with the croc, a move that still earned him heavy criticism from the media.) If you are single, you should certainly have the right to risk your life in whatever way you want, as long as it does not endanger the lives of others. Even if you are married and your spouse knows what they are getting into, I think it's okay. But those kids didn't sign up to grow up without a father. Perhaps the family prepared them for this eventuality, but I doubt it. If it was discussed with Bindi at all it was probably to say something like "what daddy does is dangerous for most people, but he is well trained and always in control of what he is doing, so he is perfectly safe." After all, that's what he told the public after he risked his son's life.

People praise Irwin for his brave attempts to promote the welfare of animals, but in the end, his death was a result of his own selfishness. It would be different if Irwin needed to do the job in order to provide for his family, or if there were an important life goal that he had not met. But given his frequent television appearances it is likely that Irwin was already fairly wealthy, and if his goal was to work with and promote awareness of dangerous animals, well, he had handled hundreds of poisionous animals on television and communicated that message all over the world for years. Some will say that he was doing so much for conservation that he had to heroically continue to risk his life in order to keep such efforts alive. Personally, I didn't send any money to reptile rescue during his career, did you?

Even if it is the case that Irwin did a tremendous amount to raise animal awareness, he could have done plenty more behind the scenes, trading on his name and knowledge of the animal world for years to come, all the while making sure his two children grew up with two parents.

I suspect those children will be traumatized for some time. I'd be surprised if you saw them wading even in a swimming pool any time soon. Being killed at 44 in a freak accident is a tragedy to be sure. But so is neglecting your children.

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