Steve Irwin. A Fair Dinkum, Modern Day, Peter Pan

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When, as a kid, we first got telly at home, (Yeh, I know, it's hard to imagine a western home that didn't automatically have a TV), there was a show called Daniel Boone. I was entralled, Spent the week playing this coonskin hat wearing, Davey Crockett type character. Only to have my dreams dashed the next weekend when a crocodile wrestling Tarzan replaced the injun fighter. These figures of derring-do were all make-believe to me. But not so for Steve Irwin. He was just nine years old, when, at his father's prompting, he was jumping into rivers and teaching real live crocodiles to 'yield'. Steve lived out boyhood dreams of khaki clad adventurers, as if he'd stepped from the pages of a Boy's Own Annual. Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, led a larger-than-life existence, until he was 44. Tragically he died a couple of days ago. Doing what he loved most: getting up close and personal with the wild beasties, with which we share this planet. Whilst filming a documentary about the ocean's deadly creatures, a stingray thrust the barb from its tail into Steve's heart. He died, soon after reportedly pulling the barb free. Police who viewed the doco footage say he was not interfering with the animal. Steve Irwin's dramatic passing has shocked a nation. But as one observer put it, his death shows just how genuine he was (Fair Dinkum, as we might say down here). He wasn't some cardboard cut-out, hero type, who needed stunt doubles, he was in there doing it himself. He simply believed he had an affinity with animals, and was passionate about being amongst them, and encouraging everyone else to appreciate them. Steve Irwin came across like he'd never grown up. He remained a big kid, brimming over with that youthful enthusiasm, that only children seem to exude. And that was his charm to many. But he did espouse the virtues of an adult in his advocacy for conservation. He had the ear of federal government, when they vetoed a proposal to allow big game crocodile hunting in the country's north. (There is now talk of a state funeral, of maybe naming a national park in his honour.) With his wife, Terri, Steve set up the Wildlife Warriors foundation in 2002. And although now operated independently of the family, the charity's administration costs are covered by the Australia Zoo, Steve's commercial wildlife park in Queensland, so that 100% of donations can be used directly for their intended result: wildlife conservation. And in direct alignment with views often expressed here at TreeHugger, Wildlife Warriors has this to say on conscious consumerism: "When it comes to habitat conservation and wildlife protection, one of the most important elements — perhaps the most important element — is conscious consumerism. This means that conservation is not just about what we actively DO; it is also what we choose NOT to do or buy that makes a difference."

Steve Irwin did make a difference. "My heart beats for wildlife and wilderness conservation - it's my mission in life." Right up until the minute that same wildlife caused his heart to stop beating. It was Steve's in-your-face passion for life, not just his own, that will be his enduring legacy.