The passing away of Steve Irwin yesterday in a bizarre stingray attack while shooting an underwater documentary off Queensland represents a huge loss to millions of his fans all over the world. As a champion of wildlife and conservation, he was a real hero.
I have spent countless evenings with my younger daughter, Sonia, watching Steve's documentaries on Animal Planet or Discovery. He served as an invisible bond that united me and my daughter on issues related to nature, conservation and environment. Seeing his daredevil acts with crocodiles, snakes and sharks, she would be totally astonished and often asked me how he could be so brave and why those animals do not attack him. And I always said to her, "if you look in his eyes, you will see how much he loves animals. The animals he interacts with, probably, also see that and realize he poses no danger to them". Now it will be difficult to explain to her why this happened.
In these times of free enterprise and globalisation when most people are addicted to the urban and the material, Steve's activities in nature represented a breath of fresh air. He championed the cause of the 'silent majority', the voiceless creatures who share this planet with us and whose survival is threatened by our ignorance and greed. Steve is a true hero because in his own way he perhaps did more than anybody else to raise awareness of the beauty and diversity of nature.
The minds of children are highly impressionable. Looking at my daughter, I feel confident that millions of children around the world who grew up seeing his documentaries will be inspired to protect wildlife and carry on his work as friends of the earth. And this will be the greatest gift and legacy of Steve Irwin to us.