Steve Irwin was videotaped pulling a poisonous stingray barb from his chest in his last moments of life, officials said Sept. 5, as tributes poured in for TV’s “Crocodile Hunter.”
Irwin, 44, was stabbed through the heart on Monday while snorkeling with a stingray during filming of a new TV program on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
“Rarely has the world embraced an animal enthusiast and conservationist as they did Steve Irwin,” Discovery Networks International President Dawn McCall said in a statement.
Mitch Magdich, curator of education for the Toledo Zoo, agreed.
“Steve Irwin was a pretty outspoken spokesperson for wildlife and wildlife conservation worldwide,” Magdich said. “He was probably the most well known. His passing will be a big blow to wildlife conservation.”
Irwin’s brash manner took away the fear people had of certain animals, such as crocodiles and venomous snakes, Magdich said. He compared Irwin to famed zoologist Marlin Perkins, the host of the television program “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”
“He was able to give interesting flare and twists to wildlife conservation that most people and organizations weren’t able to give,” Magdich said.
Angela Nelson, chairwoman of BGSU’s popular culture department, said she thinks people were interested in Irwin and his work because of his fearless attitude.
“One of the things that has fascinated people about him and his work is how he could dominate animals,” Nelson said. “There was a gift within him that said, ‘I can work with these crocodiles and work with these alligators and have them do what I want them to when I want them to do it.’”
Experts have said the stingray may have felt trapped between the cameraman and the TV star. Irwin, the popular host of “Crocodile Hunter,” rose to fame by getting dangerously close to crocodiles, snakes and other beasts.
But Queensland Police Superintendent Michael Keating said there was no evidence Irwin threatened or intimidated the stingray, a normally placid species that only deploys its poisonous tail spines as a defense.
John Stainton, Irwin’s manager, said Irwin was in his element in the Outback, but that he and Irwin had talked about the sea posing threats the star wasn’t used to.
“If ever he was going to go, we always said it was going to be the ocean,” Stainton said. “On land he was agile, quick-thinking, quick-moving and the ocean puts another element there that you have no control over.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.