Such sad news to hear about Steve Irwin's fatal accident yesterday. I loved the Crocodile Hunter's boundless enthusiasm, and enjoyed the way he brought the daily details of the lives of snakes, tortoises and other creatures to the screen – although I still don’t want to hug a crocodile!
Irwin reminded me of one of my childhood heroes, Gerald Durrell, the British conservationist who revolutionized zoos and founded Durrell Wildlife in Jersey.
(If you've never heard of him, Durrell rejected the pitiful jails zoos used to be, and campaigned to turn them into the vibrant breeding centers. He foresaw that we would make such a mess of this planet that many animal species would need safe breeding places if they were to survive. )
Irwin was a master at creating powerful television shows; Durrell's best work was in books. Inspirational and hysterically funny, I think I’ve owned three copies of My Family And Other Animals and read each to bits.
People like that fascinate me because they have done so much to bring us closer to our animal friends. Watch the life of a croc with Irwin and his camera crew, and you'll think twice before draining a swamp and running a motorway through it. Durrell's tales of hairy frogs in the Bafut Beagles, and catching bats with the aid of jackfruit in Mauritius in Golden Bats And Pink Pigeons are equally unforgettable.
I think what made them so appealing and persuasive is that neither preached like so many ardent greenies do.
I’m going to re-read all my Durrell books this week, and I’ll look to Animal Planet who should be putting on a tribute in the form of a Crocodile Hunter marathon.