Monday, September 04, 2006

The Wit & Wisdom Of Steve Irwin, Wildlife Warrior

By Darryl Mason

He was a genuine, true blue Australian. He loved his wife, adored his kids, he lived his dreams and he never tried to hide who he really was. Steve Irwin also happened to be one of the biggest stars on the planet, and one of the most famous Australians in our short history.

Few know that he wrote a series of widely admired scientific papers on Australian fauna and died as one of the largest private landowners in Australia - he used his millions to buy up tens of thousands of acres of pristine Australian bush and rainforest, never to be developed, never to be touched. That's putting your money where your mouth is and putting those hard-earned dollars to a wonderfully good use.

Some Australians found him a little hard to take, he was maybe too Australian in his honesty and his vocabulary, but it was probably his unbound enthusiasm and energy that grated on the nerves of some of his fellow countrymen.

But the kids loved him. Absolutely loved him.

There's been quite a few comments from Australian bloggers who were in the US in 2000 and 2001, as I was, who were stunned to learn about this Crocodile Hunter that seemingly every American loved and couldn't stop talking about.

But how many Australians knew who he was back then? Not many.

If he was known at all by the masses in Australia it was as the over-the-top, hammy host of a kids afternoon TV show.

But in the US? Mega-star. I lost track of the amount of times Americans said, "Oh, you're an Australian? Can you say 'Crikey! Look at the size of this fella!" or variations on that theme.

Okay, and onto the subject of this post.

Steve Irwin, as well as being Australia's most enthusiastic conservationist, was also quite the philosopher, and stand-up comic, as well as a storyteller of immense talent.

Here's a selection of quotes from some of the longer, in-depth television interviews Steve Irwin gave during 2003 and 2004.

Read them and think of his voice and add the energy and laughter.

It's interesting how different these quotes read to hearing them come out of his mouth on television. Some of them seem far more powerful in type.

Quick note on the first quote : Irwin had a big problem with entreprenuers who called themselves conservationists but promoted crocodile farming (for meat and skins). Same with kangaroos. He wanted to save all Australian animals, all the time.
They're on some crusade, these wildlife perpetrating people, where they think that, you know, by eating crocodiles and whales that we'll actually save the world, and that is bullshit, and that is bad, and it is something that must stop, and it is something that I fight vehemently.

Just say what you're gonna say, mate.

I'm fair dinkum, like kangaroos and Land Cruisers, winged keels and bloody flies! I think we've lost all that. I think we've all become very, sort of, money people.

If you don't have your highs and your lows, then you're just going to have a pretty mundane sort of a boring life and and my highs are really really high and my lows are really really low...

And then you've got the detractors having a go at me. You know, "Taking tourism back to the Stone Age." It seems to me that they're actually trying to promote nice beaches, cosmopolitan cities, cafe latte. That's in every country. What haven't they got? They haven't got kangaroos, haven't got koalas, haven't got saltwater crocs, mate.

I've got a photo of my daughter and I can just sit there and start crying just looking at her. Who would have thought someone as ugly as me could bring into the world something so beautiful, such a treasure?

I think I've actually got animals so genetically inside me that there's no way I could actually be anything else. I think my path would have always gone back to or delivered me to wildlife. I think wildlife is just like a magnet, and it's something that I can't help.

You know, easily the greatest threat to the wildlife globally is the destruction and annihilation of habitat. So I've gone, "Right, well, how do I fix that? Well, making a quid here. People are keen to give me money over there. I'll buy it. I'll buy habitat."...

There's too many good ones. I'll post another round-up, or you can read the interview transcripts in full for yourself, here and here and here